5 Quick & Dirty Tips for Using Light Stands

Regardless of the size of your production, chances are you're going to be using light stands a lot on set.

And even though these things are pretty straightforward and easy to use, Jay P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens has a few nifty tricks for setting up and using light stands that you may have never heard of.

In case you couldn't catch the video, here are the tips Morgan mentions:

  • Don't use the bottom knob!
  • Give your stand a nice, sturdy platform
  • Line up your stand's legs with the angle of view
  • Raise your stand from the top down
  • If you loosen with only half a turn, you can tighten with only half a turn

These are great pieces of advice, but I will add just one more: use sandbags and gaffer tape for safety. Light stands look pretty innocuous by themselves, but once dressed with heavy, hot lights and loose, serpentine cables, they begin to look like 12-foot death traps. So, be sure to take proper safety precautions: tape down your cables to avoid trips and put sandbags (or something similar) over the legs if you can — if the incline is too steep, I put them in the center.      

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8 Comments

I've had a number of stands almost ruined by rookie assistants going crazy on knob-tightening. It only takes a little firmness to lock that tube in place, guys.
While I can appreciate his comments about raising from the top down, if I know I'm only going up so high, I prefer to raise from the bottom as the lower tubes are stronger. And I wouldn't mount anything other than the lightest of lights on a stand like that at 12 feet. Anything more than a pound or 2 at that height is asking for trouble.

March 25, 2016 at 7:04AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
2054

For goodness sake don't put the legs in a position to line up with the angle of view. If the stand were to fall over with the legs in that position it could land on your talent/subject. Which would be the worst case scenario.

March 25, 2016 at 11:35AM

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Agreed. If a light fixture extends forward, it only makes sense to place one of the legs underneath it for support. I have seen C-stands fall over when a leg wasn't under the weight of what they were supporting. Common logic.

March 26, 2016 at 12:13PM, Edited March 26, 12:13PM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
483

Totally agree on this! Especially when using a C-stand put the largest leg under the light - the direction the light is pointed at. Gives more stability and if the light is to fall down - it falls to the side and not on the talent. If the light is heavy - use sand bags just in case on the other legs.

March 30, 2016 at 12:53AM

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Joonas Nieminen
Cinematographer and editor
248

From what I've learned ALWAYS put a leg facing the direction the light is casting, or facing the same direction the weight being supported is facing (i.e. a diva light on an arm). Then sand bag the opposing two-thirds leg/support or at least 180 degrees opposite the direction the light is facing or you are asking for a Pandora's box of problems ranging from fire, to head bludgeoning talent and least concerning but almost guaranteed is a dead light/bulb/ballast. Sand bag every light, it might be a lightweight LED but just do it! The only directions a light will fall are the mid-points between legs... Safety first.

March 27, 2016 at 5:45PM, Edited March 27, 5:52PM

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Sean Korbitz
Director of Photography
209

Close, but no cigar. You're definitely right that you want the weight of the stand over a leg. If any of you reading this don't believe me, take a c stand and fully arm it out over the big leg. Push down, and watch nothing happen. Then rotate it 180 degrees so it's in this bullshit angle of view thing the OP suggests. The part where you're incorrect is in the "opposing weight" myth. Doing the same exact process, but placing a bag on the big leg, will demonstrate that weight over the big leg (with a sandbag on that leg) will always be the safest method.

March 28, 2016 at 11:29AM, Edited March 28, 11:46AM

17
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Helpful. Thanks

March 28, 2016 at 9:13AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
1664

Use a C-stand with sand bags. Period. End of story.

March 29, 2016 at 6:44PM

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Robert Ruffo
Director/DP
241