Best Photography Light Stands

One of the most important parts of starting a photography business is getting equipped with the best camera gear. Depending on the type of photography you specialize in, camera lighting may be something to invest in. I never use anything but natural lighting for concert photography. However, food photography lighting is a key feature that sets apart professional food photographers from amateurs. My food photography gear has gone through several changes as I experimented with different modifiers and accessories. But a stalwart of my kit has always been sturdy light stands to hold my strobes and modifiers in place. In this post, I’ll highlight some of the best photography light stands in addition to key features to look for.

Key Considerations

Like most camera equipment, light stands come in a variety of flavors to support a wide range of products and budgets. The key factors you’ll want to evaluate your light stands on are:

  • capacity – what is its max load, or how much weight can it hold?
  • height – how high does it extend?
  • weight – how much bulk it will add to your photography gear?
  • price – does it fit into your budget?

Generally speaking, you’ll find that there will be a compromise between portability and strength, and budget and quality. Ultra portable light stands won’t be terribly strong and heavy duty light stands are difficult to travel with. Price-wise, you tend to get what you pay for, meaning cheap light stands won’t necessary last the longest or be the most reliable. However, photography gear is definitely getting competitive in price, so this doesn’t necessarily hold true anymore. Just read the reviews before you purchase!

It’s also important to note the while light stands are similar but not the same as a photography backdrop stand or tripod. However, a tripod can actually be turned into a light stand by replacing the ball head with a threaded adapter and umbrella lighting adapter. I use the MeFOTO aluminum Roadtrip tripod which is pictured below (umbrella adapter is sold separately).

tripod-light-stand-adapter

Threaded adapter – attach to your tripod place of the ball head.

Turn any tripod into a makeshift light stand with just two simple tools: an umbrella adapter and threaded adapter.

Turn any tripod such as this MeFoto into a makeshift light stand with just two simple tools: an umbrella adapter and threaded adapter.

My Food Photography Lighting Kit

As a food and event photographer who generally must make a studio space out of very small places, portability is key when it comes to all of my camera gear. I shoot exclusively with one Canon 580 EXII Speedlight flash, two Canon 430 EXIII flashes and Westcott Rapid Box softboxes, all of which are very compact and easy to travel with. This is my basic on-the-go kit for food photography lighting, and step-and-repeat photo booths at events.

Budget tip: Speedlight flashes are pricey if you buy them directly from the manufacturer. Yongnuo flashes are considerably cheaper options that are rumored to be exceptionally good. I use Yongnuo flash triggers all the time and have found them to be extremely reliable. I would bet their flash units are just as good. Also, if Westcott Rapid Boxes are too pricey, a lighting umbrella is a cheap yet highly effective lighting modifier.

Types of Light Stands to Choose From

Strobist categorizes light stands into three main types: regular, super compact, and heavy duty.

Best Super Compact Portable Light Stand

Since my strobes and modifiers are lightweight, I use several Manfrotto Nano light stands. Extremely lightweight yet very sturdy, these light stands are also relatively affordable. The light stands and Speedlight flashes also pack very nicely into my Pelican 1510 rolling case that I use as my light stand bag.

Most of my lighting kit fits into the carry-on friendly Pelican 1510 case.

Most of my lighting kit fits into the carry-on friendly Pelican 1510 case.

best-photography-lighting-stand-01

Manfrotto Nano Light Stand 50001B

  • Minimum height: 19.3 inches
  • Folded height: 18.9 inches
  • Maximum height: 74.8 inches (6 feet, 2 inches)
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Max load: 3.31 lbs
  • Price: $57.99

 

 

Best Regular Light Stand

On the rare occasion that I turn my second bedroom into a home photography studio, I opt for sturdier and taller regular light stands.Classifying these stands as regular simply means they don’t travel exceptionally well, but they can if you have the extra space to accommodate. Regular light stands are heavier and larger than the super compact option, but it has a higher max load and extends much taller.

Light stand manufacturers are so prolific that there is a wide array of options to choose from, and they are all very competitively priced. At the moment, Neewer is offering among the better deals: 2 light stands for under $40, which is a steal.

Best food photography light stand

  • Minimum (and folded) height: 36-inches (3 feet)
  • Maximum height: 117.6 inches (9.8 feet)
  • Weight: 5.75 lbs
  • Max load: 4.4 lbs
  • Made from aluminum alloy
  • 1/4″ screw tip on each stem
  • Price: $37.99

Best Heavy Duty Light Stand

When you’re in need of a strong, durable light stand, a C-stand (aka century stand) is your best bet. While these beasts can look cumbersome and a little too big, C-stands are incredibly handy for supporting heavier strobes and modifiers. They also offer tons of flexibility in terms of positioning your light in ways that regular light stands can’t. What makes a C-stand different from a regular light stand? First off, the C-stand base has three legs that flow out horizontally to provide an ultra sturdy base for supporting a lot of weight. Finally, a C-stand also has an extension arm that allows for a lighting modifier to be positioned directly in front of a photo subject.

What makes a C-stand different from a regular light stand? First off, the C-stand base has three legs that flow out horizontally to provide an ultra sturdy base for supporting a lot of weight. Finally, a C-stand also has an extension arm that allows for a lighting modifier to be positioned directly in front of a photo subject.

Looking at the technical details below, it’s apparent that the main disadvantages to C-stands are in budget and portability. The sheer size and extra moving parts of these stands make them difficult to transport (yet not impossible), and even the budget options are well over $100.

Matthews C-stand.

Matthews 40-Inch C-Stand

  • Minimum (and closed) height: 53 inches
  • Maximum height: 10.5′ inches (stand); 40 inches (arm)
  • Weight: 17 lbs
  • Max load: 22 lbs
  • Unique staggered leg design
  • 2-1/2″ gripheads with 16mm pins included
  • Price: $158.95

Light Stand Accessories: The Sand Bag

The most important accessory for your photography lighting kit is a pair of heavy duty sand bags. These relatively cheap weights come in very handy for helping balance and secure the weight of your lighting setup so it doesn’t fall over.

Summary

Light stands are a fundamental accessory for your photography kit, and there are many choices out there. When shopping for a stand, start by meeting your bare essential needs, and build from there.

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By | 2016-12-29T22:21:23+00:00 November 16th, 2016|Comments Off on Best Photography Light Stands

About the Author:

Suzi Pratt is an event and food photographer based in Seattle. She is also a web designer and blogger who aims to inspire and teach others how to start a photography business. View her at photography portfolio, or her web design portfolio.
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