Sunday, January 8, 2012

All about lightstands

In the world of frugal photography, there is some gear to skimp on, and some not to. Take lenses for example. While you want to get deals on lenses, and the best bang for your buck, you don’t want to, say, buy damaged lenses to repair. Or off brand lenses. Or try to make your own. Because the quality must be perfect to achieve the proper result, lenses, or any other delicate piece of gear, should be well researched and carefully chosen, and invested in.
Light stands are a perfect example of something you can hack it with. You can substitute a light stand for
a clamp attached to anything solid, a stick in a paint can, or even make one out of PVC yourself (personally I wouldn’t use that for anything heavier than a clamp light or GOBO). I have repaired broken light stands I got from other photographers, bought mismatched ones or Craigslist, and you can even modify them for specialty use. IMHO, there's no reason to spend $100 on a single light stand.
My very first light stand was a actually an Adorama brand 8 foot stand from Craigslist, which I still use regularly today because its height and light weight make it perfect for small job work (meaning light monolights, and of course speedlights), although I do use it for my heavier Speedotron heads too.
I also take with me on all jobs an Impact 6 foot super light weight stand (1.8m) packed with a speedlight, attachment gear and radio slave in an old tripod bag, with a white umbrella ball bungeed to it. This is my backup/on the go kit (AKA Strobist kit), as it weighs nothing, and takes 1 minute to set up. Obviously the light doesn’t pack a huge punch, but it's perfect for rim/separation lighting a speaker at a bar mitzvah, or a toast at a wedding, and because it's so small and doesn’t rely on outlets, it's easy to move anywhere.
Back to light stands.
So, what are the down sides of using cheaper light stands?
• They don’t slide as smoothly (can be really stiff to extend or retract)
• They don’t tighten or loosen as well (meaning many twists before you can raise, and may slide down slowly if not super tightened)
• You may need to tighten some screws when you get them and once in a while after that
• You have more money to waste on other photo gear
So where do I get these Cheap light stands?
The larger stores have their own "house brands" which are cheaper than the rest. Check out Impact and Flashpoint/Adorama from the NYC stores. There is also a brand I love on Amazon called Ravelli, although there are other brands I haven't tried yet.
Why are lightstands on my mind? Well……
I just got a ridiculous deal on a backdrop kit which included two of these Ravelli lightstands. The seller was super friendly, and they have lots of great deals on camera gear all the time. So if you're in the frugal mood, I encourage you to take a minute and check out their sales and deals by visiting their amazon storefront's photography section. Stuff goes in and out of stock quickly (for obvious reasons after you see their prices) so check in often to see what's happening.

Back to lightstands.
Some of my favorite lightstand tips:
• You can use a Bat bag from a sporting goods store or a speaker bag from a music shop to shlep your lightstands around
• Keep a superclamp with stud in your lightstand bag, so if needed you can attach two lights to one stand
• You can use ankle weights and several other DIY solutions to ensure stability on your lightstands (no these won't help with an umbrella outdoors during a hurricane, but they will save you a lot of money if someone lightly bangs into your stand at an event)
• Take along wingnuts/AKA butterflies so you can attach lots of extras to the 1/4" or 3/8" threads on top of your stands. For example, I attach my halogen (woklights) video lights to stands by putting the 1/4" tip through a hole in the bottom of the light, then tightening on butterflies. (see my previous article on transporting them)
• Some of the cheaper stands come with reversible studs with 1/4" and 3/8" tips, these are handy for the video lights, but offer an extra point where your whole system can some loose :(
How to modify a lightstand for uneven terrain
How to drill a lighstand for a shoulder strap
Any other ideas? Hit me in the comments. C'mon! Hit me! HIT ME!!!!
That’s all for now! TTYL

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