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Studio Tips: Gaffers Tape is the Photographer’s Duct Tape

Gaffers tape—also known as gaff tape—is a heavy cotton cloth, pressure-sensitive tape with strong adhesive properties. Sounds a lot like Duct Tape, but the two are different—especially when it comes to photography.

Main differences between Gaffers Tape and Duct Tape

Gaffers Tape is designed to be removable—especially important when you can’t damage the surface beneath the tape. It can easily be torn by hand, it’s water resistant and able to resist high heat temperatures—making it ideal for securing cables and props that are exposed to the bright, hot lights of camera work. This is why it’s widely used in theatre, photography, film and television production and industrial staging work.

Duct Tape is permanent. It’s ideal for making long-lasting general repairs on the spot. It can be removed, but it will leave an adhesive residue behind. Duct Tape is very flexible and easy to stretch, enabling it to fit into tight areas or hug irregular surfaces and contours.

REAL, professional premium grade Gaffers Tape isn’t cheap!

You normally have to order Gaffers Tape online and it isn’t cheap. Professional premium grade 2-inch x 30-yard Gaffers Tape runs about $16 dollars. For the average photographer, 90 feet will last a really long time. In the film industry, where you may have to run a few hundred feet of cable on a set or in a venue, you will go through it more quickly. Look at it as the cost of doing business.

Using Gaffers Tape

Over the years, photographers and filmmakers have found many uses for Gaffers Tape:

  • Creating  V-Flats
  • Temporarily fixing a broken piece of gear
  • Mounting seamless paper to a wall
  • Putting muslin on B board,
  • Securing a seamless background to the floor.
  • As a last resort, taping a stinger (extension cord) its full length to a studio floor so no one trips.

Once you start using Gaffers Tape, you will become more creative on ways to fix things on set.

here’s a humorous, but useful video with 50 ways to use Gaff Tape (plus a musical intro)

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