How to Set Up a Light Stand for Photography Sessions

Setting up a light stand… how difficult can it be? Just put it up, mount the lights, and start shooting, right? Actually, there’s more to it. In this video, Jay P Morgan demonstrates some of the technical aspects of setting up a light stand:

The Gordian Knob

There are always two knobs on a light stand. Morgan advises against using the knob at the bottom of the light stand. Unless, of course you want to “rock the train.” He insists that you use the one at the top of the stand.

setting up a light stand

Don’t touch the bottom knob.

Setting Down a Light Stand

Most people just push the legs firmly so that they spread as widely as possible. Morgan suggests that you set it down as far as it wants to, rather than pushing it down forcibly.

how to set-up a light stand

Allow it to settle down rather than push it down.

Light Stand Placement

Watch out for the angle of view of your lens/camera combination. You don’t want your light stands to stick out and be captured in the frame.

angle of view, light stand set-up

Watch your angle of view.

Raising the Central Column

If your light stand comes with two or three sections, don’t go crazy trying to raise it to its maximum height. Raise it only to a height you need for the shot. Size doesn’t matter here.

Raise the top section first before the middle, and finally the bottom. You don’t want to be caught red-faced repeating this silly mistake.

Morgan advises against raising the top section too high. The top section is the most flimsy of all. It can get a bit wobbly when you have raised it too high.

light stand set-up tips

Start from the top section when raising the light stand.

Quarter Turn

Don’t go crazy with the knob and unscrew it all the way, otherwise, when you’ve raised the section high up with heavy lights you’ll be struggling to tighten the knob. Morgan advises just a quarter turn, and that is enough to loosen the brakes and bring the section down or lift it up and then secure it.

Putting Away Your Light Stand

Most people choose the bottom knob when they have to pack things up. They struggle to neatly pack their stands. Remember the first piece of advice? Never use the bottom knob. Use the top knob, pull the legs in, and your light stand is packed for putting away or transporting to a different location. Gently does it.

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