If there's one thing any photography loves, it is more toys! New bodies, lenses, filters, camera straps, tripods, the list goes on and on. For portrait photographers, one of the most valuable pieces of gear is a solid stand on which to mount a speedlight.
Being a college student who's diet primarily consists of Ramen, and to add some variety, more Ramen, I know what it means to be strapped for cash at times. Call it poor financial planning, call it bad luck, I call it a devotion to what I truly love, photography .
Flash stands serve a few purposes, but you can likely guess their primary purpose. Outside of simply holding up a flash, some models are capable of using boom-arms to hold reflectors at odd angles, and otherwise accomplish tasks which free up a hand for the otherwise human, two-handed photographer.
You also see a variety of bells and whistles nowadays on stands, some more valuable than others. From my own personal experience, a good flash stand should have the following:
- A height of at least 8', if not 10' or more. Believe me, or believe Murphy's Law, but I assure you that as soon as you buy that 6' el-cheapo flashstand, a 6'2" model will want a shoot the following day. You'll be up a creek with no way of getting the right angle on your flash.
- Sturdy design. You may not think of a flash-stand as having to hold up to much, after all, the average speedlight weights in at just a couple pounds even when loaded with batteries, but consider this: most photographers use a light modified in addition to the stand. This modifier mounts on a head. Some photographers also use external battery packs. Now that weight is adding up.
- Wide base. This should help your stand from falling over, taking your speedlight with it. It is a common occurrence during outdoor shoots to have a stand blow over. Concerns over breaking your flash aside, breaking your stand won't do you any good either.
- Reversible head-attachment. This isn't too much of an issue. Most flash stands feature a small metal piece, known formally as a "Studio Spigot" which can be swapped around, providing either a 3/8" or 1/4" male thread on which to attach a head.
So where am I going with all this? Sounds expensive right? Well, it doesn't have to be. I've purchased a few different flash stands, stand/modifier combos over the past two years, all have failed to hold up except for one. Granted, I came across it recently and so have yet to have the chance to truly put it through it's paces. The stand I'm speaking about is the Ravelli ALS 10' Air-Cushioned Light Stand, available through Amazon.
So let's go down the list:
- Reversible spigot? Yep.
- How about a wide base? Indeed, I estimate it to have a radius of roughly 2.5'
- Sturdy design? You bet. WIth tube diameters of 3/4" to ~1.5", this thing is hefty.
- Height? A wonderfully practical 10'.
- And oh yeah, it has air-cushioning, albeit very basic. That means if you accidentally loosen a latch, your flash doesn't take an all-too-quick drop from 10' to 4'. The shock from stand collapses like these kill speedlights.
All of this, coming in at less than $32, complete with a reasonably sturdy carrying bag (and two-day shipping for all you Amazon Prime members). That is a steal in anyone's book. The only cons I can see is that the stand is not light, with a shipping weight of 6lbs. Lastly, some of the minor screws may need replacement down the road, but even that is doubtful.
Ravelli is not know for producing top-of the line gear, and rightly so, that is not what this stand is. This is a basic stand, as basic as they get, but it is a good basic stand. So good, I've now purchased two, and have stopped using all my other stands.
Buy one, and you be the judge! It gets my seal of approval.