Night Photography Tips–Taping The Lens Shut

Regardless of how you set the focus (manual or autofocus), once you get focus set it’s a good idea to tape the lens barrel so the gremlins won’t nudge it out of focus. You would be surprised how easy this can happen. The traditional choice for taping is gaffer tape. Gaffer is strong, easy to tear, and it doesn’t leave a residue. It also comes in black, which makes it useful for other applications as well, including lighting setups. The drawback of gaffer tape is that it is very expensive and only available from specialized dealers. A low-cost alternative is painter’s tape that you can get from any home store. Whatever you do, DO NOT use duct tape. It will leave a sticky residue, especially if the lens gets hot.

If you focus manually, you’ll have to remove the tape to focus and reapply it afterward, being careful not to nudge the focus barrel when you do. If you use autofocus, as I do, you can leave the tape on the lens. This works fine for internal focus lenses that focus by rearranging the internal lens elements. If you have an older lens whose focus barrel physically rotates as the lens focuses, you’ll have to remove the tape to focus and then reapply it.

You might think you can get by just fine without taping the lens and you might be right—for a while. But eventually you’re going to accidently shift the focus, either by touching lens inadvertently or when attaching a LensMuff or battery-powered dew strap. If you get into the habit of always taping then lens once focus is set, you won’t have any problems.

Night Photography Tips is a nightly feature in which I give a quick tip for night photographers. It’s a way to share all the little things I do and think about in my night shooting, without boring you with my usual wordiness. If you have a tip you’d like to share, please email it to me and I might include it here, along with a link to your blog or website.

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