Looking for a studio stand for lights or other equipment? At first glance, this seems like a simple enough task, until you go to the relevant section and discover that there is a huge variety of options, each with its own specific set of features and characteristics. In this article, we will look at the main criteria for choosing studio stands and their types, suitable for solving different problems. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced photographer, choosing the right stance comes down to answering the same set of questions.
How much does your equipment weigh?
The most important task for any rack is to provide a strong, reliable support for what is attached to it. Carrying capacity is one of the very first characteristics that should be considered. It represents the maximum weight that the rack can safely and securely support.
Raylab LS003 withstands loads up to 7 kg.
It is important that the rack comfortably support the weight of the main equipment and optional accessories. So, in addition to the light itself, you need to take into account the weight of modifiers and other accessories — softboxes, reflectors, etc. It is worth calculating this parameter with a margin, since the rack should not constantly work at the limit of its capabilities. All other things being equal, always choose a stand with a higher capacity because it will be more reliable and stable even with lighter equipment.
What mount is required for your equipment?
The top mount of the stand must match the mount of the lighting so that you can fix it securely. The most common way to mount flashlights and continuous light sources in small to medium sizes is the 5/8” mount. Heavier fixtures may require a 1–1/8” fixture.
Racks can be used not only for the lamps themselves. If you are going to use it to support modifiers and other lighting accessories, there are models with gripheads (disc clips for attaching accessories) and additional handles.
Some stands also allow the rod to be mounted both vertically and horizontally, expanding the range of possible lighting positions.
Start your search by checking the mounting of your illuminator. The most common types of mounts that photographers and videographers encounter are:
- 5/8” is the most common mounting system used by photographers.
- 1–1/8” mounts are more common when working with lighting fixtures used for film production.
- Less common fastener types are 1/4”-20, 3/8”, 1/2”-13 and M10.
How high and how low should the lighting be placed?
There are no racks that can rise too much high or low too much low. But you can very easily run into those who cannot climb. enough high or low enough low. Therefore, when making a purchase decision, consider the maximum and minimum height you need. You definitely don’t want to use a model that can’t place lighting where you need it most.
While the need for proper positioning of the light is probably paramount, be aware that the extra sections/extra height can make the stand less stable than shorter models. Therefore, you should not buy the highest rack you can find — proceed from your real needs and tasks.
Should the rack be portable?
If you often work in different locations or take equipment with you on trips, portability can be one of the main criteria when choosing a model. You will need a lightweight model that will be as compact as possible when folded. It should be borne in mind that light racks may be less stable.
Here are the main points to consider:
- Weight: Choosing the right weight for your rack can be a real dilemma. For maximum portability, you need the lightest stand possible. However, before looking for the lightest model on the market, be aware that they are often inferior in stability to heavier racks. If you still choose too light, you can add weight — a sandbag or other support to stabilize the entire installation.
- Closed Length: While most racks can be folded down to some degree, the length of your rack when closed will determine whether it can be carried in a backpack, crammed into carry-on luggage, or requires a special case.
- Sections: When choosing a portable rack, you will find that the most compact models usually have more sections. Note that this usually means less stability.
- Stand area: The size of the space you work in can also impose certain restrictions on the size of the stand. If you’re going to be shooting in a confined space, it’s important to consider the footprint of your stand—that is, how much floor space is required to set up your booth.
Are additional features needed?
Outwardly, most racks look quite simple, but manufacturers offer a variety of additional options to make their models more convenient and versatile.
Makes it easy to move the rack, especially when using heavy equipment. The rollers can also save the floor from damage due to the rack being dragged across it.
If you would like to make the stand mobile after purchase, casters can be purchased separately. For example, the Raylab RL-WL22 and RL-WL25 stand casters are suitable for studio stands with 22mm and 25mm leg diameters, respectively, and can support loads up to 10kg.
General purpose racks often use an air damping system. This prevents the equipment from falling quickly when the clamps are released, reduces the possibility of pinched fingers and other injuries, and damage to the equipment.
The Raylab LS004 3m stand is equipped with an air cushioning system, thanks to which the clamp does not fold instantly, but smoothly lowers. The system uses special rubber pads that create a cushion of air that eliminates the risk of accidental folding and damage to installed equipment. The stand itself, with a weight of 2 kg, can withstand a load of up to 10 kg of weight.
Raylab LS004 3m with air cushioning
Another type of depreciation is spring. Spring damping occurs due to springs that are installed inside the section. Such devices are not as effective in saving from impacts as air-cushioned struts, as they slow down the movement only at the very end.
The Raylab LS001 2.2m spring-loaded stand is best for mounting light studio or camera flashes. With a weight of 1.4 kg, this lightweight aluminum alloy stand can withstand loads up to 2 kg. The design uses clips made of high-strength polycarbonate, which ensures the reliability of lighting installation.
Some stands are equipped with height and position adjustable feet that are used to secure the stand when installed on uneven ground. They are especially useful when working on locations with uneven floors, when shooting in confined spaces and on the street.
Can be folded inward towards the center column, making the rack more compact when folded. This is a useful feature for photographers who need to save space at home/studio or when traveling with a stand.
Universal/combo head stands combine several types of mounts so that they can be used with a variety of lighting fixtures and other equipment. They are particularly well suited for studios that use different types of lighting.
If you want to light your subject diagonally from above or down, a crane stand is the way to go. The crane boom allows you to move the light source up or down, and the stand itself can be rolled back and forth on rollers. All this will help to position the lighting exactly where you need it.
The boom of the crane can also be lowered with a lamp to the floor and the mount turned over, then the light will go down to illuminate the background or diagonally up for various lighting effects. However, not all crane mounts allow this.
Remember that when using the crane, you need to balance the weight of your lantern with a sandbag or other object.
Crane Raylab BS02
Thanks to the angled beam, the Raylab BS02 crane allows you to set the light at the right angle and in the right direction. The maximum working height of the device is 1.9 m, and the length of the horizontal bar is 2 meters. One of the advantages of this model is its high portability: the crane is disassembled, and its weight is 3 kg (while the crane itself can withstand a total weight of up to 3.2 kg). This allows you to easily move the model within the studio, as well as take it with you to field sessions.
Different types of racks use different types of clamps to secure the sliding parts. With their help, legs and sections in telescopic racks are fixed in height.
There are two main types of clamps — screw clamps and clamp clamps. Clamps clamp the rack in a circle, and the screw fixes the rack on one side, screwing inward.
On the left — screw clamp, on the right — clamps. Source: fotogora.ru
Clamps can be adjustable and non-adjustable. According to the material, the clamps differ in plastic and more reliable metal. For light racks, plastic clamps are sufficient, but if you need to hang heavy equipment on a rack, it is better to find a model with metal clamps.
At first glance, it seems strange to choose a studio stand based on its color. However, if you’re worried about the rack being able to reflect light, then a painted cabinet can have practical advantages over an unpainted, reflective metal surface.
Types of racks for different tasks
Now that you know the basic characteristics, you can determine which type of rack is best for your needs. Photographers who often work on location, studio photographers, and film studios rely on different types of lighting and, accordingly, use different types of stands. They can be roughly divided into six categories: general purpose stands, C‑stands, wind-up stands, background light stands, and overhead stands for mounting devices at the top level.
General Purpose Racks
They are used everyday and often have a folding design for easy storage and transportation. The base racks are versatile and well suited for handling lighter equipment. Many of them are light enough to be taken outside the studio to shoot on location. It can be convenient to install not only lighting on such racks, but also other equipment, such as cameras.
The Raylab LS200B is suitable for installing small lights, cameras or other accessories weighing up to 2.5 kg. The working height varies from 70 to 200 cm. The model is very light, so it can be used in the studio as a universal stand, and thanks to its compact size when folded, it is well suited for on-site sessions.
More advanced si-stands (C‑stand) are usually used for film production, as well as in commercial photography studios. Their popularity is due to their strength, stability and ease of storage (thanks to their standardized shape and design). The flip side of the coin is a rather bulky design, too heavy to get out of the studio.
C‑stand Avenger A2033F C‑Stand 33
C‑stands are often equipped with additional features, adjustable legs, horizontal booms and gripheads.
Manfrotto Wind Up Stand. Source: manfrotto.com
These models are designed for mounting and adjusting large lighting fixtures on set. They are equipped with a column with a lifting mechanism, which is regulated by a handle. The handle allows you to safely raise and lower heavy lighting fixtures.
Stands for background light
Falcon Eyes L‑150/B
These low stands can be installed at a minimum height from the floor, which is often required for backlighting or, for example, tabletop product photography. The most important feature of such racks that you need to pay attention to is the minimum height. These machines may not even have a center column, so they can sink very low to the ground and usually have a very low maximum height.
Racks for installation of devices on the upper level
Avenger Overhead Steel Stand 56. Source: manfrotto.com
Unlike racks for background light, such devices are used to install lighting at a maximum height. They have the look and strength of a Sea Stand, while still providing high load capacity and maximum height. Such models are intended, first of all, to support large backgrounds, large lighting fixtures and install light at maximum height. Many of them are equipped with wheels, heads for attaching crossbars and other accessories. The name of such models often contains the word “overhead”, meaning that the lighting can be installed “above the head”.
So, there are a number of fairly simple criteria for choosing the right rack for studio equipment.
First of all, the choice will depend on the weight of the lamp, accessories or other equipment that you will mount on the stand. Next, you need to look at what mount your fixture uses: in photography, the most common mount is 5/8”, in cinematography 1–1/8”. The height of the fixture will affect how the light is placed. For background lighting, you can choose low stands, and for maximum height — overhead-stands. If you often get out on the road, lightweight folding models will do, but you need to remember that the lighter the stand, the less stable it is.
Various additional features can also be useful — cushioning (the best option is air cushioning), adjustable and folding legs, rollers, etc. For a more flexible arrangement of lighting, crane stands are suitable.
Depending on your needs, you can choose a lighter and more portable general purpose stand or a stronger and more reliable (but heavy and bulky) ce-stand.
Do you use studio stands in your work? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments. Also, if you have any questions, our experts will always be happy to answer them.
* when preparing the article, materials from the resources bhphotovideo.com, fotogora.ru and onfoto.ru were used.