Why I Love Gaffer Tape and Why You Need It

Two-inch gaffer tape, left, and the one-inch size, right. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Two-inch gaffer tape, left, and the one-inch size, right. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Gaffer Tape: do you know what it is? If you don’t, think black, fabric-based duct tape, but without the sticky residue. That’s right: no residue! This is the single most important distinction between gaffer tape and duct tape, and the reason you need to get a roll or two of this stuff.

The uses for the studio photographer are obvious: attaching gel material to lights, getting a round object to sit right where you need it on a surface, a way to quickly improvise a reflector and stick it right where you need it: the list goes on and on.

What’s maybe not so obvious is why every other shooter should have some of this wonderful stuff.

When shooting a football or basketball game, if you’re going to be transmitting photos back to a publication on deadline, quick access to the flip card—that’s the printed roster, with all of the players for both teams listed—is essential to your work. An old trick that sports shooters have been using for years is to tear the card in half and tape half of it (one team) just to the left of your laptop screen, and the other half (with the opposing team) to the other side. Now you have all of the players, correctly spelled with their numbers and positions, right in your line of sight as you write that caption information.  When you’re finished, you peel these pieces off and presto!—no sticky goo on your machine.

Another place I routinely use it is on my Canon cameras. The eyepieces on the Mark II’s I use are notorious for popping off and getting lost, always when you’re not paying attention, of course. A bit of gaffer tape keeps them firmly in position. I’ve written before about using gaffer tape to tape the ends of your camera straps. Critical for me, this usage.

Camera straps secured with strong, reliable gaffer tape. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Camera straps secured with strong, reliable gaffer tape. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

It’s also great for keeping some bayonet lens hoods on, when it’s a model that tends to come off. Or if your poncho springs a leak and starts to drip on you—gaffer tape is the answer.

Some photojournalists, hoping for a bit less conspicuous presence while shooting, use small pieces to tape over the names of their ultra-expensive camera brands.

If you’re running extension cords or audio cable from a mult box back to your video camera and you don’t want anyone tripping over it, gaffer tape, again, is the answer!

This strong, black fabric tape comes in 1” , 2” and 3” wide rolls. I suggest you get a roll of the 1” and the 2”. (You can get by with just the 2” role, since the stuff will tear easily along the fabric base, but it’s just easier to pull out and use the right roll.)

So there you have it: a bunch of great reasons to rush out today and load up on some of this vital photo accessory!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

7 Comments on "Why I Love Gaffer Tape and Why You Need It"

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  1. mayang sari says:

    i’m a theatre practitioner and swear by it too..

  2. Beau Hause says:

    I’m so in love with this stuff. Gaffer tape is one of those things that once you know it exists, you can’t live without it! It’s kind of like bungee cords or those reusable bags that stuff into themselves… you find lots of other uses for it.

  3. Ryan D says:

    Hey love this page and regarding what you said about:”This strong, black fabric tape comes in 1” , 2” and 3” wide rolls. I suggest you get a roll of the 1” and the 2”. (You can get by with just the 2” role, ”
    It sure is the best one deffimitly better then duck tape its awsome what do you think is better this or duck tape?

  4. Cheska says:

    I didn’t know this Gaffer tape but it looks like an electrical tape. It seems that it is very important to you this stuff. I get your point anyway. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Eric says:

    It sticks to polished, dusty concrete. No other tape I have found can do that, and certainly not without leaving any residue behind.

  6. Ian Jones says:

    Thanks for this- it’s always reassuring to hear that technical industries rely on day to day essentials just as the rest of us do! It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a great product that does exactly what is says on the tin. I agree with Eric that it’s the only tape I’ve found that will stick to dusty surfaces. There are seemingly infinite uses for this product- everyone should definitely keep some handy at home!

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