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Capture : Putty in my hands

12/06/2017 - 16:20
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I love reading old books on photography. Whenever I come across one at a yard-sale or a used bookstore that I haven’t seen before I have to purchase it. Inside waiting for me, is always a piece of information that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Recently I was looking at a book on photo styling and the author was lauding the benefits of “photographers putty”, which was a clear putty used to hold products in place.

Based on the information in the book it would also sometimes leave a greasy residue on paper mats, and porous surface areas. The company they reference in the book went out of business, and from what I can gather the product was a little on the pricey side as well.

This made me think about an interesting tidbit that I read a long time ago in regards to a museum using Silly Putty to hold priceless artifacts in place in the event of an earthquake. Sadly I can’t find the information online, so you’ll just have to take me at my word.

Remembering this gave me the idea to combine the two ideas, and try using silly putty on-set and on assignment as an alternative. Immediately, I was shocked at just how useful it really was. The benefits of Silly putty is many cases is like having an extra set of hands on-site with you.

A silicone-based polymer, it can retain its shape for a considerable duration and is safe on most hard surfaces (no oil, no residue – but test first!) making it a perfect virtual assistant. At a 1.00-1.50 per container, it is easily added to any photographers arsenal and even comes in its own handy carrying case.

Below are some of my favorite uses that I have found:


Modeling/Portrait:

  • A small amount of putty over your thumb creates a grip passing out/going through photography releases quickly.
  • Keeping clients children occupied, and clients who act like children. (Just kidding :))
  • Prop up rings for a Wedding/Engagement shoot.

Food/Product:

  • Temporary cord placeholder (Test surface first!)
  • Sound damper on a rattling item when shooting video
  • Level lopsided prop

Field/Environmental:

  • Hide a key for a client/ from a vendor
  • Tack papers, flags, skrims, banners, signs to walls
  • Grip for tools/equipment – Physical therapists use it for rehabilitative therapy of hand injuries.

Try out a few of the ideas at your next shoot and let me know what you think, sound off in the comments below!

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