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The best light stands in 2022: tripods for studio flash heads and LED light panels

Best light stands
(Image credit: Future)

The humble light stand is an often-overlooked photographic tool, but it's a vital piece of equipment and support when using photography lighting kits (opens in new tab), or even an off-camera flashgun. 

If you've ever seen a professional working photography studio, light stands will be everywhere, and supporting not just lights, but also reflectors (opens in new tab), flash diffusers (opens in new tab) and backdrops (opens in new tab)

But it's not just pro studios where light stands play a major part, even a small home studio will need at least one light stand to achieve an optimal light positioning. Light stands are also useful for supporting a ring light (opens in new tab) when vlogging to cameras or can provide more suitable support for a 360 cameras (opens in new tab) than your tripod.

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Light stands are a simple device, similar in design to a regular camera tripod, but with smaller legs to reduce the overall footprint of the stand and therefore reduce the risk of tripping over the stand in a busy studio environment. To compensate for the smaller legs, the centre column of a light stand is much taller than that of a typical tripod, enabling a light stand to typically reach up to 3 metres tall however, then can go even higher. This kind of height combined with relatively short legs means stability can sometimes be compromised, so light stands are best used with special weighted saddle bags filled with sand, hung over at least one leg to reduce the chance of the stand toppling over if it's supporting a heavy studio light.

Unlike most camera tripods, a light stand will usually have a 5/8" spigot on the top, which a studio light can clamp on to, though many stands can also come supplied with 3/8" and 1/4"-20 adaptors for mounting flashguns (opens in new tab) or other studio lighting equipment. But, it's not just lights which can be supported by a light stand - attach a horizontal boom arm to said light stand and you can hang reflectors, diffusers or even small background panels, the possibilities are endless.  For instance, combine two light stands and a large background roll, which can be hung between each stand to form a backdrop for a large group shot.

Light stands typically come in three base designs: the standard, tripod-leg set-up is most common, but there are also wheeled stands which make repositioning easier, but tend to be on the more heavier side. Finally, there's the C-stand, which uses an angled leg design for greater rigidity to reduce risk of toppling over and enable them hold a higher load capacity, but at the expense of portability.

In this guide we've include stands to suit all budgets and usage scenarios, so if you're just starting out with a home studio lighting, or want up upgrade your existing lighting set-up, there should be something for everyone and every budget.

The best light stands in 2022

(Image credit: Amazon)
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1. Amazon Basics Aluminum Light Stand 6.7' twin pack

Simple, but effective support at a terrific price

Specifications

Max height: 213cm / 6.7'
Min height: 85cm / 2.8'
Weight: 1.66kg / 3.66lb (pair)
Load capacity: 3.17kg / 7lb
Top mount: 5/8" Receiver, 1/4"-20 screw thread

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing value
+
Two stands for a key & fill set-up
+
Useful max height & capacity

Reasons to avoid

-
Max load isn't that great
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No air cushioning

Unless you're going for especially moody lighting, chances are you'll need at least two lights for a typical portraiture shoot, which means you'll need two light stands. Thankfully, this pair of stands costs way less than most individual supports from more established brands, yet they'll still reach a versatile 6.7' at max stretch and will each support up to 7lb/3.2kg of gear - not too shabby for Amazon Basics. However, don't expect advanced features like air-cushioning, but if you're just after a simple but effective pair of  light stands, you can't loose at this price. It's also possible to buy these stands individually, though the twin pack will usually work out better value in the long run.

(Image credit: Impact)
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2. Impact Folding Wheeled Base Stand 8.5'

The best light stand for fast-paced shoots

Specifications

Max height: 260cm / 8.5'
Min height: 107cm / 42"
Weight: 5.6kg / 12.45lb
Load capacity: 12kg / 26lb
Top mount: 5/8" Receiver

Reasons to buy

+
Highly manoeuvrable
+
Premium construction
+
Huge weight capacity

Reasons to avoid

-
Very heavy
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Bulky when packed

When you need to frequently reposition studio lighting, mounting your lights on wheels can be a huge time-saver. This premium stand from respected stand manufacturer Impact features three individually lockable casters mounted to its legs which can fold up in seconds to streamline the stand for easy portability. Max lighting load is a whopping 26.46lb, and has a height range between 42" and 8.5', you'll have no trouble getting the lighting angle you're after. However, weighing in at 12.45kg, this stand is on the heavy side, so is better suited as a studio stand rather than on location work. A larger, 11' model is also available.

(Image credit: Manfrotto)
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3. Manfrotto 420B Combi Boom Stand

Best light stand for varied lighting angles

Specifications

Max height: 390cm / 12.8'
Min height: 130cm / 51.1"
Weight: 2.7kg / 6lb
Load capacity: 9kg / 19.84lb (2kg with boom)
Top mount: 5/8" Receiver

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile positioning options
+
Includes counterweight
+
High load capacity 

Reasons to avoid

-
Big when packed
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Pricey

An issue with regular light stands is they're not ideal if you want to cast light downward onto your subject for things like product photography or a flat-lays. This Manfrotto stand solves that problem by converting from a regular vertical stand into a boom arm with just a flick of a lever. Of course, with this kind of setup you do increase the risk of overbalancing the stand when using a heavy light, but Manfrotto has though of this and includes a sandbag counterweight with the stand to keep everything stable. Also, if you stack the boom arm vertically on top of the stand base, you get a conventional vertical light stand that can reach an incredible 12.8' high!

(Image credit: Impact)
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4. Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand 9.5'

a great general purpose light stand

Specifications

Max height: 290cm / 9.5'
Min height: 123cm / 48"
Weight: 2kg / 4.4lb
Load capacity: 10kg / 22lb
Top mount: 5/8" Receiver

Reasons to buy

+
Air cushioned
+
Versatile max height & weight capacity
+
Accessible price

Reasons to avoid

-
Wheeled stands easier to move

If you want a simple, effective and versatile light stand which doesn't break the bank, then this 9.5-foot Impact stand is ideal. It'll support an impressive 22lb max load, and as the name suggests, it'll reach a towering 9.5 feet at max stretch, opening up plenty of high-angle lighting possibilities. With its 52-inch-wide footprint it ensures decent stability even with the stand fully extended, while quipped with air cushioning means the vertical stand sections lower gently to protect your gear and your fingers. Up top is a standard 5/8" removable spigot which has 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 threads for maximum compatibility with various studio items.

(Image credit: Matthews)
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5. Matthews C-Stand Grip Head Kit

a great stand for versatility

Specifications

Max height: 320cm / 10.5'
Min height: 140cm / 53"
Weight: 7.2kg / 15.9lb
Load capacity: 10kg / 22lb
Top mount: 5/8" stud

Reasons to buy

+
Huge reach and load capacity
+
Includes boom arm and grip head
+
Stout C-stand design

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy and bulky when packed
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A serious investment

A C-stand stand can be a more heavy-duty lighting support than the typical light stand, while also allowing for extra extended height. The horizontal leg span also making it easier to hang counterbalancing sand bags to increase stability. The downside is, while the legs will rotate to nest flat for storage, you can't get the same cylindrical folded form as a regular light stand. This premium Matthews offering is a great example of a C-stand, with its maximum 10.5-foot height, making it extra-versatile. It also includes a grip head which allows the top section to be used as a boom arm - great for top-down lighting, or for hanging reflector panels.

(Image credit: Manfrotto)
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6. Manfrotto 5001B Nano Light Stand

Best for location shoots

Specifications

Max height: 190cm / 6.2'
Min height: 49cm / 19.3"
Weight: 0.96kg / 2.2lb
Load capacity: 1.5kg / 3.3lb
Top mount: 5/8" stud

Reasons to buy

+
Very light weight
+
Short and slim when packed
+
Useful max extended height

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 1.5kg capacity
-
Most stands go taller

Most light stands are designed for studio work, and while often strong and dependable, they can be heavy and bulky as a result. But Manfrotto's Nano stand stands out by having a ultra-portable design which can accompany you even on remote location shoots. With a max extended height of 6.2', it can go tall enough for most lighting set-ups, yet it's party piece is that it'll pack down to an incredible 19", thanks to its 5-section design. It is made from lightweight aluminium construction which keep overall weight down to 2.2lb (1kg). while its max load capacity is a modest 3.31lb (1.5kg), but if you're already travelling light, this isn't a deal-breaker.

(Image credit: Manfrotto)
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7. Manfrotto 003 Backlight Stand

Best for low-angle and backdrop lighting

Specifications

Max height: 8.9cm / 3.5"
Min height: N/A
Weight: 1kg / 2.2lb
Load capacity: 15kg / 33lb
Top mount: 5/8" Receiver

Reasons to buy

+
Easily portable
+
Great for keeping out of sight
+
Essential for backdrop lighting

Reasons to avoid

-
Only for low-angle lighting

If you want to use a backdrop behind your portrait sitter, and need to light it accordingly, the last thing you want to see a big light stand and flash head in the back of shot. That's where a backlight stand comes in, as it allows you to position a light far closer to the ground than a normal light stand, so it can be hidden behind furniture or simply low enough to be out of frame. Backlight stands are simple devices, but this particular stand is from a respected brand and is designed for great stability, while also giving you just enough room to set your desired light angle. It folds flat for compact storage and weighs a mere 2.1lb / 1kg, yet can support up to 15kg.

Read more:
Best photography lighting kits (opens in new tab)
Best flashguns (opens in new tab)
Best flash diffusers, softboxes and modifiers (opens in new tab)
Best lens for portraiture (opens in new tab)

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Sebastian Oakley
Sebastian Oakley

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specialising in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound and many more for various advertising campaigns, books and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected in to BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa and Sinar and has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI and everything in between. His work covers the genres of Equestrian, Landscape, Abstract or Nature and combines nearly two decades of experience to offer exclusive limited-edition prints to the international stage from his film & digital photography.