Light Stand Buying Guide


Finding the correct light stand for your studio lights and lighting modifiers is a simple task if you break down your search into manageable steps. Regardless of whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned photographer, this guide will help you find the best light stand for your needs.

The Mainstream Light Stands

Location photographers, production studios, and live performers each rely on different types of lights and supports. The two most common light stands are the general-purpose stand and the C-stand that is the industry standard for filmmaking and commercial photo studio use.

General-Purpose Stands

Support for small and medium weight lights, accessories, and modifiers.

They are often relatively lightweight and collapsible for easy storage and transport—designed for use inside a studio yet portable enough to be used on location.


Durable, stable, friendly to sandbag use, and easy to store, they are heavier and more rugged than the general-purpose stand, but less portable.

Some offer features such as sliding legs to compensate for uneven surfaces, removable “turtle bases,” built-in grip heads and boom arms, and more.


How Heavy Is Your Light?

The job of the light stand is to provide a stable foundation for your lighting equipment. The stand's ability to do this will be dictated by its load capacity—the maximum weight it can support while maintaining stability. You'll want a stand that can support your light plus any light modifiers or accessories you plan to use—soft boxes, reflectors, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Load capacity is the maximum weight your stand can support while remaining stable.
  • Make sure your stand can hold the combined weight of your light plus accessories.
  • Always try to leave a cushion between the weight of your gear and the maximum capacity of the stand—important for added stability and for future growth and flexibility.


Vertical & Lateral Positioning

There's no such thing as a light stand that can go too high or too low—but there is such a thing as a light stand that can't go high or low enough! Make sure you factor in your height needs. Telescoping stands have differing numbers of sections. Although more sections can allow for greater height, increasing the number of sections might reduce the overall stability of the stand. Extension poles are a height-adding solution but may also adversely affect stability.

Grip arms (usually used for accessories and light modifiers) and boom arms (generally used for lights) are commonly used to expand the ways you can position a light or modifier to change height or extend laterally.

The stability of any rig can be boosted by using sandbags to weigh down your stand, especially when the lights are mounted off the light stand axis.

Key Takeaways

  • Pay attention to both maximum and minimum heights.
  • Taller stands may be less stable than shorter stands.
  • The minimum height spec only refers to the stand's height; keep in mind your light will sit above this.
  • Additional height may be added with an extension pole.
What Mount Does Your Light Require?

Both your light and the stand must have compatible mounts:

  • Small and medium-size strobes and continuous lights: 5/8" (baby) mount.
  • Large, production-grade lights: 1-18" (junior) mount.
  • Adapt & combine: junior-baby adapter.

Light stands can be used for for light modifiers and other accessories. There are stands with grip heads and arms included for exactly this purpose. Some stands also permit mounting studs to be installed vertically and horizontally, expanding their versatility.


Key Takeaways

  • The 5/8" or baby mount is the most common mounting system used by still photographers.
  • The 1-1/8" or junior mounts are more common when working with lights used for filmmaking.
  • Other mounting options and adapters are available depending on your needs.
Portability & Space Considerations

If you are using lights in the field, you will want to choose a stand that is lightweight and collapses to a manageable size (closed length)—but know that compact, lightweight stands can hold less weight and aren’t as stable as larger, heavier stands.

The more sections a stand has, the higher it can extend and the smaller it can collapse. Keep in mind that more sections means less overall stability.

Another factor to consider is the footprint of the stand. Some stands take up a fair amount of floor space. In a cramped studio, that can be an issue.

Key Takeaways

  • Lightweight stands are great for travel but may be less stable than heavier models.
  • The closed length of your stand will determine how easily it can be packed and transported.
  • Smaller stands often incorporate more sections at the expense of stability.
  • When working in tight quarters, check the footprint of your stand to make sure it will fit.
Features & Optional Accessories

Light stands look simple—most are—but as the industry evolved, manufacturers began adding options to make them more versatile.

Air Cushioning

Air cushioning is a feature seen on many general-purpose stands. The cushioning prevents lights from dropping quickly when collapsing or lowering the stand and reduces the likelihood of damage to you or your equipment.

Leveling/Sliding Legs

Leveling/sliding legs are height- and position-adjustable legs used to secure the position of your stand on uneven terrain. They are particularly useful when working on location, in tight spaces, or outdoors.

Reverse Legs

Reverse legs fold up around the center column of your stand to help it become more compact when collapsed. This is a desirable feature for photographers who are short on space or plan to travel with their stands.

Combo/Universal Heads

Combo/universal heads combine multiple types of mounts so that they can be used with a variety of lights and equipment. These are especially desirable in studios where different types of lights are used.

Roller Bases/Wheels (Casters)

Roller bases and wheels (casters) make your stand easier to move around, especially when using heavy equipment. Some stands allow wheels to be added.

Boom Arms

A boom arm allows the light to extend laterally from the stand. Be aware that when you use a boom arm, you must counterbalance the weight of your light with a sandbag or other item.

Grip Heads

Grip heads are multi-functional devices used to secure lighting accessories via 5/8" and 3/8" rods. They can be built into your stand or purchased separately as an accessory.


A painted stand may have less reflectivity than one with a reflective finish—sometimes an important consideration.

Specialized Light Stands

Beyond the general-purpose stands and C-stands are several options that meet more specific needs for photographers and videographers.

Crank/Wind-Up Stands

Designed for larger lights, crank/wind-up stands adjust their height mechanically. This makes it easier and safer to precisely position heavy lights.

Backlight Stands

Backlight stands are designed for low-angle lighting such as background lighting, floor-level lighting, or tabletop shooting.

Overhead Stands

Similar to heavy-duty C-stands, overhead stands offer high load capacities and tall maximum heights. They are primarily intended to support large backdrops, lighting accessories, or overhead lights.

T-Bar Stands

Designed mainly for mounting a series of lights for live events, such as those used by DJs, the T-bar stand allows you to install lights to the left and right of the center column.


We hope that this buying guide has helped you find your way to the purchase of the perfect light stand for your needs. If you have any questions, please post them below in the Comments section and we'll help you out.