Light stands are one of the unsung heroes of photography. You end up needing them on just about every shoot in which you are using lighting—but no one is making Pinterest boards of their dream light-stand setup. Light stands for photography might not be sexy, but learning about your options and investing in quality equipment will make your life easier, protect your gear and help you to nail your perfect shot.
Check out these options to help you find the right stand for your photography equipment.
(Left-Right): A C-Stand and a tripod stand
The industry standards for photo and video light stands are C-stands. The “C” is short for Century. They are typically pretty big and heavy and usually more expensive than other types of stands. If you need to travel light or don’t have much storage space, this type of stand is not for you.
However, if you have the money and the muscle, they are completely worth it. First, they are built like tanks and can take a beating. This means that not only will they last forever but you can also buy a set of used C-stands with complete confidence. Second, they have legs that sit pretty low to the ground. Having a low center of gravity is helpful, and it is really easy to throw a sandbag on top of the legs to keep them from toppling over if you are using heavy gear on top. It’s best to have the kind with detachable legs, so that you can have different lengths of risers depending on the height that you need.
Some stands come with wheels, and you can buy C-stand bases that have wheels as well. This is particularly helpful in a studio setting with big, heavy lights and modifiers. Moving lights around is as simple as pushing your stand. Of course, this does not work well in environments with uneven floors or in places where the wind can blow your lights around.
There are a variety of qualities and price points for tripod stands on the market. You can buy ones that are pretty big and heavy, and you can buy ones that are smaller and compact for travel. I have found that generally the heavier ones tend to last a little bit longer, but I also keep cheap ones around when I don’t want to carry a heavy bag with me — I count on replacing them every year or two.
Note that the lighter the weight of the stand, the more important it is to use sandbags to weight it down. This is especially true if you are working with heavy lights, with big modifiers, in high winds or on uneven surfaces.
A boom arm can be used with C-stands or tripod stands, giving you more flexibility on placement of the light. The boom allows you to place lights over or under your subject without having a stand in your shot, or gives you extra height or reach when you need it.
Having a crossbar stand—or a backdrop stand—is helpful in similar situations to where you would use a boom stand. This is for a light up high that you want to remain out of the frame. Having two stands supporting the crossbar rather than the one supporting the boom arm gives you addition stability.
Sandbags are an essential part of your light stand kit. They are so cheap but give you more than their weight in gold in piece of mind. If you plan on using your lighting equipment outside, higher than your light stand base is wide, or in a place where someone could potentially knock the stand over, make sure to have a few sandbags ready to go.