Flash stands, otherwise known as light stands, come in a variety of brands and models to support a wide range of weight loads and budgets. Choosing the best stands and grips for your lighting plan depends on the light sources and modifiers in your production. Most light stands fall into either of two categories: C-stands or lightweight stands. Then we have a few “unique” designs which we’ll dive into later. To help you decide which light stand is right for you, we’ve created our list of the Best Light Stands for Photographers.

If we missed anything, or if you have any recommendations on what we should consider for next year, please comment below!

Best Travel / Compact Light Stands

One thing the photographer on the road has to have in their kit is a great travel light stand for those moments you’ll need a little extra light. The key to a great travel light stand is one that is lightweight, folds up into a neat compact package that hopefully can also fit easily in a suitcase, but still is tough and sturdy to make sure your gear can be supported.

Manfrotto 5001B 74-Inch Nano Stand (Our Choice)

Our 2nd place Winner for Best Travel Light Stand.

A compact photo stand that packs a mighty punch. The Nano Black Stand combines clever and compact features with a strong anodized frame. Come rain or shine, you can be sure that this hardwearing stand won’t flake, rust or wobble under pressure, even when supporting equipment weighing up to 3.31 lbs (1.5kg). It’s time to get out there!

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H |Amazon

Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand

Our  Winner for Best Travel Light Stand.

This Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stand is a black anodized aluminum support that rises to a height of 9.5′ and folds down to 42″ for storage and transport. The stand will handle up to 22 lb and is topped with a removable 5/8″ spigot with 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 threads. It has a wide footprint of 52″ for greater stability. Air cushioning gently lowers the light when making height adjustments to protect equipment and fingers. At a price of just $54.95 you can’t go wrong here!

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Avenger Baby ALU 25 Stand

Our 3rd Place Winner for Best Travel Light Stand

The Avenger A0025B Baby Alu 25 Stand is a versatile, lightweight aluminum stand. It is quick to set up and very stable. Its locking T-knobs are large and ergonomic — making it easy for you to efficiently lock each section. This stand rises to a maximum height of 8.2′ (2.5 m). The Baby Alu Stand 25 has a black anodized finish and it folds to a size that is short enough for almost any kit case – 34.25″.

The drawback on this stand is even though it’s a compact “travel” light stand, it’s one of the heavier ones weighing in at 6.61lbs so if you make this choice, plan accordingly.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

The Best Medium Light Stand

When a balance between portability and strength is required then sometimes even those cheap light stands that come bundled with kits can do. I know, to some of you I just blasphemed but bare with me. Most of those stands are better used as paper weights than light stands. I’ve even had one (wasn’t actually that cheap) literally crumble away; The metal began to crumble at the screw but thankfully I was there to catch it. Lots of those cheap stands are made from bad metal and plastic. The type of metal which you can’t clamp anything to as it just bends. Useless

affordable-light-standMy cheap recommendation here, and one stand that I use all the time, is the Bowens BW-6610. They’re heavy, reliable, and cheap. On B&H you can grab one for the paltry sum of $58.99. Whereas on the second-hand market real bargains can be had.

If you’re looking for something a little more portable (and expensive), take a look at the Manfrotto stackable range of light stands. The 1052BAC ($83.99) only extends to 7.7’ but has a unique stacking system which makes transporting multiple stands that much easier. There’s a whole host of sizes within this range. On the negative side, they tend to weigh a little more, and that’s the compromise other than cost.

You can find the Manfrotto here  and the Bowens here.

Best Full-Sized C-Stands

When nothing else matters but the quality of your image, you’ll make sure the light stand and every other accessory attached to it is as good as it can get! For this, we’ve got the top three full-sized professional light stands of the year for you to bring your work to the next level.

These don’t have the compact space saving designs like the travel light stands, but that’s a fair trade for the weight, stability and security you’ll get out of the heavy-duty c-stand and light stands below.

Matthews 40″ C-Stand with Spring-Loaded Base

Our Winner for the Best Full-Sized Light Stand

This black Matthews 40″ C-Stand Kit is comprised of a 10.5′ stand with a 40″ double riser and spring-loaded base that work to achieve a maximum height of 126″, or collapse down to a minimum height of 53″. A 40″ grip arm with attached 2.5″ grip head; and a 2.5″ removable grip head allow for multiple attachment options. The unique staggered leg design of the C-Stand allows it to be nested and placed extremely close to one another on a set, and the included grip arm and grip heads offer an assured, non-slip hold with both 3/8″ and 5/8″ mounting holes.

Check the prices from our preferred retailer below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Kupo 40″ Riser C-Stand Turtle Base Kit

Our 2nd Place Winner for the Best Full-Sized Light Stand.

The 9.7′, black 40″ Riser C-Stand Turtle Base Kit from Kupo is outfitted with a patented spring ring locking system that removes all tension from the legs so that gravity can do the work for you. A “turtle base” is an industry term where the riser section can be quickly removed from the base for easy transportation and the base can be used with a stand adapter for a low mounting position.

The 40″ Grip Arm with Hex Stud is a 2 1/2″ grip head mounted on the end of a 40″ piece of steel tubing 5/8″ (16 mm) in diameter and finished with a faceted hex stud to keep lighting fixtures in position when they are placed on the end of the arm. The 2-1/2″ grip head consists of a pair of rotating aluminum discs attached to a 5/8″ (16 mm) receiver. The discs have four different sized “V” shaped jaws to accept any accessory with a 5/8″, 1/2″, 3/8″ or 1/4″ mounting stud or tubing. The “V” shaped jaws have “teeth” that grab whatever is mounted between the plates securely. The 2-1/2″ grip head features an oversized ergonomic “T” handle and dedicated roller bearings designed for maximum torque.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Neewer Heavy Duty Light Stand C-Stand

Our 3rd Place Winner for the Best Full-Sized Light Stand.

The Neewer light stand (double kit in this instance) is perfect for supporting most photographic equipment, including softboxes, reflectors, large strobe lights, and more. Suitable to use for indoor photo studio portrait, arts, magazine, video shooting or outdoor events.

The sturdy 3 legs, combined with a solid locking system, ensures the safety of the equipment. Steel material and heavy duty structure make it durable for long time use. Portable lightweight design for easier carrying, making your trip more convenient.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Unique Stands & Honorable Mentions

While there are lots of Light Stand manufacturers out there, there’s not a lot of variety in design out there…but every now and again, something will come out that’s a bit different, surprising, and oddly useful in special situations. This section is dedicated to those light stands that you may not have heard of before or never knew that you totally needed!

Savage Universal MultiFlex Light Stand (Our Choice)

https://bhpho.to/2Y6ctEeOur Winner for Best Unique Light Stand

The air-cushioned, 6′ MultiFlex Light Stand from Savage is a space-saving solution to setting up in tight spaces or on uneven terrain. Thanks to a clever design, instead of being fixed, one of the three legs can slide down from its normal position on the stand’s center section until it nearly touches the floor. That means squeezing a leg under a couch or table is no problem, stairs are a snap, and supporting gear on hilly terrain is routine. The stand has an industry-standard 5/8″ top stud, and comes with a touch fastener strap and a padded carry case for storage and transport.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Manfrotto 156BLB Mini Kit Stand

Our 2nd Place Winner for Best Unique Light Stand

The Manfrotto Backlite Mini Kit Stand is a versatile, hardworking, lightweight, aluminum stand. It is quick to set up, and very stable. It features a black anodized finish, plus a removable 1/4″-20 threaded tip that reveals a 3/8″ threaded tip on the top 5/8″ Baby top stud. Designed and kind of awesome for lightweight setups in small work areas. This rig works great for hiding a backdrop light behind your subjects or even using as a base for a reflector setup during your headshot sessions.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Manfrotto 231B Column Stand with Sliding Arm

Our 3rd Place Winner for Best Unique Light Stand.

The Manfrotto 231B Column Stand with Sliding Arm is a black anodized aluminum, wheeled, single column stand that is perfect for studio use. It features a spring-loaded sliding arm that allows quick height adjustment of your light fixture from almost floor level to nearly the top-most of its 8′ chromium steel column.

The 231 has a leveling leg, which extends and locks, making the load more stable on uneven surfaces such as steps. This product is available with a brushed aluminum finish (#231) or with a chrome steel column, (231CS).

This beast is best suited for studio work and clearly gives you a wide variety and flexibility with its setup and usage, especially since you can add accessories to use one stand to mount multiple lights and modifiers. Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Cheetahstand C8 3-Section Aluminum Light Stand

The CheetahStand C8 light stand sets up automatically. Set it down and the stand legs open automatically. Pick it up and it closes automatically. The light weight three-section CheetahStand offers quick setups and repositioning. Whenever you have to move a light, just lift it.

The automatic legs, making it easy to move safely and easily through a crowded room without putting down your camera. The CheetahStand C8 is recommended for supporting portable, shoe-mounted flash units or small monolights.

The CheetahStand C8 extends from 29″ to 96″ in height and collapses to 28.5″ for storage, has a footprint that’s 32″ in diameter, anc can support up to 6 lbs.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers: AdoramaAmazon

Amazon Basics Light Stand

If you’re on a tight budget, you might want to consider the Amazon Basics Light Stand.  While not the most durable light stand, it gets the job done if you’re looking for a serviceable solution.

See the full Amazon Basics Light Stand Review for more info.

Additionally! Don’t Forget Your Sand Bags

Another thing to keep in mind with light stands, no matter what style you have, it’s in your best interest to always carry sand-bags to help safely secure your gear once set up. You can get pre-made/packaged ones or even just container bags that you can put your own weights in on site (to save on travel stress). For instance;

Impact Empty SBE-B-15 Saddle Sandbag

Stabilize your light stands, boom arms, backgrounds, and more with the Impact Black Empty 15 lb Capacity Saddle Sandbag. Easily transport the empty saddlebag to your location where it can be filled with available sand, dirt, or rocks and securely zipped shut. When your shoot is over, simply empty the contents to make your load lighter for the commute back home. Weather- and water-resistant cordura fabric stands up to the elements and use over time, while the double-zipper design provides an extra level of security to prevent the contents from spilling. Upper and lower handles made of durable nylon webbing allow multiple options for transport and hanging as a counterweight. Check the pricing here: Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Key Considerations When Buying a Light Stand or Flash Stand

The purchase of a light stand will be a compromise. There is as of yet (and I doubt will ever be) a light stand that can hold tons of weight, extend extremely high, pack down very small, and weigh very little. As a result, you will always be compromising between portability and strength. Decide which is most important for your work and start your decision-making process there.

There is, of course, the third consideration present in all of our purchases; budget. From my experience, the cheapest light stands are a complete and utter waste of money. That said, there is room to save a little if you’re clever with what you purchase and know exactly what you need. The following consists of my recommendations, based on the stands I have used, which I think represent the best value. They are not the cheapest, but neither are they the most expensive.

Here is a list of all the gear discussed in this article:

The best way to save yourself some cash when buying a light stand is to firstly know exactly what you need. You always get what you pay for but you might not need everything that the more expensive options bring. Also, my suggestion is to avoid the cheapest stands like the plague.