In Praise of Gaffer Tape

June 14, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Gaffer:  The chief lighting or electrical technician on a movie or film crew. 






In Praise of Gaffer Tape


Gaffer tape is one of those non-secret, secrets that lots of photographers use regularly but others have never even heard of.  It is an inexpensive cotton cloth tape that is durable and holds strong yet has the ability to be readily removed from a surface without leaving any residue.  As the name Gaffer implies, this tape is often used in electrical applications to hold wires to wood, carpet, tile or any other flooring material.  In photographic applications, this tape can mitigate a possible trip hazard from wires of all types.  The lack of a residue will be appreciated by the maintenance staff and is a must for many venues.


Since it is a cloth material, it is useful to cover metal or other surfaces that can be cold or hot to the touch.  If you own a monopod or tripod and frequently find yourself holding cold surfaces, simply wrap the area with gaffer tape and voila, instant comfort.  A similar improvement can be for offending areas of a camera body.  This tape is also used for the lens caps of Canon 'Big White' lenses.  It makes touching the cap comfortable and is a nice reinforcement when the lens cap has a crack.


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Since we're speaking of monopods, let me mention another use.  When I shoot high school football, I clamp a speed light to my monopod using hose clamps.  Wrapping the monopod shaft with 3 turns of gaffer tape will prevent the clamps from scratching the metal and keeps the clamps from sliding.  


If you've ever had lens switches move inadvertently, a small piece of gaffer tape can prevent that from recurring and if you want the focus to remain unchanged for a remote  set-up, gaffer is the ticket.  Camera bodies can benefit from some tape applied to covers that tend to come loose or open.  When I ship a body to Canon for inspection and cleaning, I'll tape over the area exposed by the removal of the battery.


This material also makes a great impromptu clamp for temporary positioning of speed lights, PocketWizards, or even a light stand--especially if a light is mounted on the end of a monopod.  Take your shots and toss the used tape.  It's fast, cheap and easy.


There are many wonderful ways to attach gels to a speed light.  All too often however, I find myself with the need to attach a 1/2 cto or other gel and no way to do it.  I just put some short lengths of gaffer on my 580 EX II so if I ever need it, I can remove and use a bit to attach a gel.  It peels off when I'm done with no ill effects.


One last use is to mark repeat locations on a floor or other surface.  This can be handy for camera remotes or any application that will be repeated from time to time.


OTHER IDEAS:  How do you use gaffer tape?  Post your ideas.  Thanks.




Phil Zivnuska 


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Philip S. Zivnuska