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.
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(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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!(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.
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