In the words of Jay P Morgan, “If you can’t fix it with gaff tape, it probably does not deserve to be fixed”, and he’s right. Gaffer tape (or gaff tape, if you prefer) is one of the most useful and versatile things you can keep in your camera bag.
Probably the most common use for me is hanging flags from light stands or attaching snoots made from Cinefoil to flashes, but here’s at least 50 ways you can use your gaffer tape, courtesy of The Slanted Lens.
Tip #3 is also one I use quite often, and can be invaluable for both stills and video. Even on location, markers on the ground will help you get your subject position themselves perfectly in the shot time after time.
For video, you can also put your tape down in the form of arrows to show direction of movement between static positions, and if you have several actors, it’s helpful to have different colours of tape for each one to prevent confusion.
One tip mentioned here, that I don’t use myself, is to use it in place of a step up ring. If your filter is larger than your lens, and you don’t happen to have step up rings available, then gaffer tape can be a great way to hold it together.
The reason I bring this one up, though, is because it kind of relates to something I do sometimes do. I use Schneider 4×5.65″ ND filters, especially when shooting video with DSLRs to ensure I can get a 1/50th of a second shutter speed. Because I don’t usually need a full blown rig with a matte box, I’ll often use them with a Cokin Z-Pro holder.
The only problem with this setup is that the filters stick out of the sides, as you can see in the image above. This can cause huge amounts of flare in the image in bright conditions, even if the sun is well out of shot or even behind you, due to light hitting the edges and bouncing around inside the filter.
Other filters systems like the Cokin P series, Lee’s 100mm square filters can also potentially suffer from this problem if you’re not using some kind of hood or shade. Gaffer tape around the edge of the filter stops the light hitting the edges, and will also help to ensure that your filters don’t slide out of the holder, too!
As a location shooter in England, where the weather’s about as predictable as a roulette wheel, this use is another that often comes in very handy for me.
It’s not going to protect your lights in a downpour, but it will certainly help in a light shower, or when you’re shooting in the clouds, as happened when I assisted photographer Graham Binns on one particular shoot in Yorkshire a couple of years ago.
Anyway, watch the video, maybe you’ll pick up a trick or two.
Update : I originally meant to mention, and forgot, that gaffer tape and duct tape are two VERY different things. Duct tape is often mislabelled as gaffer tape, so, be sure to buy quality tape from a photographic or theatrical supplies place, and not the local hardware store! (thanks for the reminder, Paul).
What other photographic uses for gaffer tape do you have that weren’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments.