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A basic light stand can open up a ton of new creative options for photographers by giving them control that on-camera flash and natural light can’t match. They can also be used to mount reflectors, hang backdrops, or even provide more flattering lighting for YouTube videos. These are simple, durable pieces of gear, and buying the right one now can have you set for years. Our list of the best light stands emphasizes high-performance models that will stand the test of time and keep your pricey lighting gear from clattering to the ground. 

How we chose the best light stands

When selecting the products that appear in this buying guide, we considered light stands that would fit a variety of budgets but also work with a wide variety of lights and other camera accessories. It was important to select products that would work for supporting small lights but also include options that could handle larger studio strobes or continuous lighting options. 

The products that appear in this guide were selected through a combination of hands-on experience, reviews, and user feedback. 

The best light stands: Reviews & recommendations

Best overall: Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand



Why it made the cut: A simple, versatile light stand that can handle studio lights while remaining reasonably priced is what makes this our choice for best overall light stand. 


  • Load capacity: 10 pounds
  • Maximum height: 13 feet
  • Minimum height: 4.4 feet
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds 


  • Affordable price point
  • Air cushioned design 
  • Versatile height capabilities


  • No wheels 

The Impact air cushioned light stand is a simple and versatile tool for supporting lights in the studio or on location. It has a max height of 13 feet making it easy to get a high angle on your lights. And the air cushioned design means that gear will lower gently—which is good news for your gear and your fingers. It has a standard 5 /8” stud with a 1 /4” – 20 threaded top which is compatible with all types of photography equipment. Plus it has an extremely reasonable price point. 

Best for varied lighting angles: Manfrotto 420B Combi



Why it made the cut: The boom arm on this light stand means more versatile ways to position lights—great for shooting product photography or other flat-lay shoots. 


  • Load capacity: 19.84, 4.4 pounds at maximum extension
  • Maximum height: 12.8 feet
  • Minimum height: 4.3 feet
  • Weight: 5.95 pounds 


  • Boom arm makes for versatile lighting angles
  • Includes sandbag for balance
  • High load capacity, good for big studio lights 


  • Pricey 
  • Bulky 

A light stand with a boom arm like this one makes it much easier to cast light downwards while shooting, which is ideal for product photography or flat lays. You can use this particular model as a traditional light stand or a boom arm stand by flipping a lever. It even comes with a counterweight to keep your heavy lights balanced while shooting. It’s pricier than some of the other stands on the market, but it’s essentially two tools in one. 

Best heavy duty: Matthews C Stand



Why it made the cut: A versatile stand that can handle extremely heavy lighting equipment. 


  • Load capacity: 22 pounds
  • Maximum height: 10.5 feet
  • Minimum height: 4.4 feet
  • Weight: 11 pounds


  • 22 pound load capacity
  • Arc welded legs 
  • Spring loaded base
  • Boom arm for versatile lighting angles 


  • Expensive 
  • Heavy 

The Matthews C stand is a heavy-duty option that can support lights up to 25 pounds—making it a great choice for shooters who are working with heavy lights. The tee and spin handles have an ergonomic design that makes it easy to tighten quickly. And you can use it as a vertical stand or a boom for more versatile light angles. In addition, it has a spring-loaded base, 1mm receivers for 16mm pins, and 2- 1/ 2” grip heads. For maximum stability, you will want to add some sandbags or counterweights. 

Best compact: Manfrotto Nano Light Stand



Why it made the cut: A lightweight light stand that’s great for the photographer on the go. 


  • Load capacity: 6.6 pounds
  • Maximum height: 6.4 feet
  • Minimum height: 1.7 feet
  • Weight: 2.98 pounds


  • Compact and lightweight build 
  • Relatively tall max height 
  • Portable


  • Low load capacity 

An excellent choice for the photographer who likes to travel light, the Manfrotto Nano Light Stand has a max load capacity of 6.6 pounds. As a result, it’s a great option for speedlights or small LED panels. It has a max height of 6.5 feet but is only 20 inches long when it’s folded down, making it easy to slide into the side pocket of a camera backpack. It even has a leveling leg if you happen to be shooting on uneven terrain. 

Best budget: AmazonBasics Light Stand

Amazon Basics


Why it made the cut: These low-cost light stands are simple, effective and come bundled in sets of two—making them a great option for a photographer on a budget. 


  • Load capacity: 7 pounds at lowest height, 1.1 pounds when fully extended
  • Maximum height: 6.7 feet
  • Minimum height: 2.8 feet
  • Weight: 3.66 pounds


  • Inexpensive 
  • Come bundled in a pair
  • Lightweight build 


  • Low load capacity 
  • No air cushioning 

In most situations, it’s helpful to have two lights—a key and a fill—which also means you will need two light stands. These budget light stands from Amazon Basics come bundled as a pair and cost a fraction compared to name-brand stands. Plus, they have a lightweight aluminum build and a decent max height of 6.7 feet. Unfortunately, they can only support 7 pounds of weight and lack higher-end features like air cushioning. But their low-cost price makes them a steal if you are looking for something simple and are using smaller lights. We suspect that they won’t last quite as long as some of the other options in this guide, but they are a bargain. 

Things to consider before buying the best light stands

A light stand is an essential but often overlooked tool in your photography kit. They usually are multi-functional, making them valuable tools. On a professional set, they are used for a variety of reasons—holding lights, adding diffusion or flags, or even supporting backdrops. But amateurs can benefit from them as well. Having a few light stands available when you shoot will help you get more creative with your lighting setups, do classic three-point lighting or even help create more flattering light when vlogging. 

Types of light stands 

Light stands typically come in three varieties, and what light stand is best for you will depend on both where you are shooting and what kinds of lights you are using. The three base designs of most light stands include a standard tripod style, a C-stand style, and a wheeled style. Tripod-style light stands are the most common and typically the most affordable—they’re also good for a wide variety of lights–such as LED ring lights–and accessories.

C-stands have a more robust design and are good for mounting extremely heavy lights, making them a good option for heavy continuous lights, big strobes, or even for hanging seamless backdrops. The wheeled style is most often found in studios and is a good choice for shooters who need to be able to easily move their light source around while they work. C-stands and wheeled light stands are generally more expensive than tripod-style stands.

Weight capacity 

Like tripods, light stands have a maximum load capcity that they can hold. If you already own lights, you will want to check their weight and verify that the stand you are considering will be able to support them. It is quite frustrating to get your new stand only to realize the lights won’t work on it.

Size and weight

If you are shooting in a studio setting and don’t need to move light stands from location to location, you can get away with large, heavy stands. But if you shoot on location and need to bring your stands with, you’ll want to focus on something lightweight and compact. This is especially true if the spot you are photographing requires any sort of walk. Compact light stands may be able to fit in a side pocket of a backpack, making it much easier to transport. Considering where and how you will be using the stands will help you determine if you need to stick small or can go extra sturdy and large.


Q: How much do light stands cost?

Light stands can cost anywhere from $30 all the way up to a few hundred dollars. The price of the light stand will vary depending on the materials that the light stand is made of, what kind of arm it has, max height, and weight load capacity. Generally speaking, light stands that are designed to hold expensive, heavy lights will be more expensive because they have a more robust build quality. Keep in mind that in most situations, you will need at least two light stands to support your key and fill lights.

Q: What do you use to keep the light stand from falling over? 

A counterweight or sandbags can be used to help secure your light stand and prevent it from falling over. If you are using a vertical light stand, you will want to sandbag the legs of the light stand to help stabilize it. If you are using a light stand with a boom arm, you will want to add a counterweight to the end of the boom opposite of your light—a sandbag can be used, but a backpack or other piece of gear can be used in a pinch. 

Q: What’s the best way to carry a light stand? 

The best way to carry a light stand is dependent on how large of a light stand that you are using. For example, a compact nano light stand will probably fold down small enough that it can be carried on a backpack where you might store a tripod. Mid sized light stands can often be comfortably carried in a tripod bag or in your hands. If you are carrying the light stand while a light is attached to it make sure you remove any sandbags from the bottom of the stand first. Light stands with lights attached to them should be carried carefully with two hands. Finally, in most situations, we advise reducing the height of the light stand before attempting to move it. 

Final thoughts on the best light stands

Ultimately the best light stands for you depends a lot on the types of lights that you are using during your shoot. If you primarily shoot with speed lights or small LED panels, a low-cost budget light stand will probably suffice. If you are using expensive strobe lights, you will likely want something a bit more robust to handle the weight. If you are using big, heavy continuous lights, a C stand that can support up to 22 pounds of weight is the ideal option. 

Why trust us

PopPhoto has a long history of delivering the opinions of some of the sharpest and most prolific camera dorks the world has to offer. Since 1937, we’ve been reviewing cameras, providing wisdom from well-known photographers, and generally just nerding out about all that goes into making great pictures. Our current crop of writers and editors have decades of professional photography and camera writing experience among them. Collectively, we’ve probably shot with just about every camera and lens combo you can imagine—as well as some obscure stuff you may not even know about. Remember the Casio Tryx folding camera? PopPhoto does.

We also get that buying a camera is a big decision, which is why we’re dedicated to helping folks choose the right one (or, in our case “ones”) for their needs. Case in point: Handing over top dollar for an expensive rig may leave you unsatisfied if it doesn’t fit your preferred shooting style. Sure, a $6,000 sports-oriented DSLR can capture landscapes, but do you really need to do it at 30 frames-per-second? No, you don’t.