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April 19, 2011 / GreenMan

3 Essential Items You Must Have on Location Shoots

Many photographer friends of mine and video makers I know love to shoot outdoors. And why not? The  beauty of nature is the ideal setting for any photo or video shoot. You just simply can’t recreate the look and feel of a natural setting in a studio. That being said, many outdoor shoots can cause you much grief.  There are always going to be forces that are beyond your control, such as wind, sunlight, shadows, noisy birds, ect. Some of these things cannot be helped, but some you can combat with some good sense and a few tricks. From my experience, I have come up with three equipment items I have found to be absolutely necessary when shooting on location. These items are (drum roll please):  gaff tape, reversible fill reflector, and clamps. Never leave home without these three things, even if you do not plan on using them. They can save your shoot! Let me explain.

Black Gaff Tape

Gaffer tape is the Band-Aid of the film industry. I use gaff tape like my uncle uses duct tape: to fix everything.  Silks are going to rip. Gels will flap in the wind. Flags are going to get snags in them. Well, you can use the gaff tape to patch up holes in virtually any material without causing damage or leaving a sticky residue. Actors are going to need spike marks. Gaff tape. Cables are going to be strewn everywhere for no rhyme or reason. Gaff tape them to the ground so your crew and talent don’t trip. You will be amazed at what you can ‘MacGyver’ with a roll of tape and a bag of C-47s clips.

Reversible Silver and Gold Reflector

When shooting outdoors, the sun is always going to either be a blessing or a curse. The only reliable thing about it is that it will constantly be changing.  This is why a fill reflector will be so important for you.  I like to use a reversible silver and gold soft reflector. These are made of fabric and fold into itself to you can transport it easily. It is also more variable than a reflector board. You will have the most success using the sun as a backlight and positioning this reflector just under the talents face (as close as you can get without being in frame of the shot). For a warmer tone, use the gold side. For more of a sparkle, use the silver side. There. You have a nice, natural fill light, without lugging around a heavy halogen lamp and paying the mega bucks for a generator. Definitely a must have.

Clamps and/or Clips

Wether they are heavy duty backdrop clamps, or clothespins (C-47s), you will NEED some sort of durable clamp set on location. The wind is unpredictable. The last thing you need is for your gels or greenscreen to go flying off into the sunset. Universal clamps will be your best friend for everything from wrangling cables, to clipping gels in place on barndoors or over windows. On one shoot, I had to clamp an actor’s pants, because he forgot to bring a belt and they wouldn’t stay on by themselves. Bottom line, you never know what you will need them for until you need them for it.

The best part about all these items is that they are relatively inexpensive and can all fit together in a small carrying bag. So you have no excuse! Expect the unexpected and be prepared for any situation. Don’t let Mother Nature get the best of you and ruin a possibly fantastic shoot. You need to be focusing on your art, not on the elements of nature, right? Of course I’m right.

Happy Shooting Everyone!



Leave a Comment
  1. Larry / Apr 21 2011 10:44 AM

    I’ve always wondered; what exactly is the difference between Gaffers Tape and Duct Tape? Is the quality just better?

    • GreenMan / Apr 21 2011 1:08 PM

      Gaff tape is a high strength vinyl cloth material. It is still just as adhesive but designed to remove smoothly without leaving sticky residue behind, like duct tape does. It’s just way higher quality tape than duct tape. It’s more expensive but it’s worth the money.

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