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One of the simplest solutions to improve your digital photography when using a flash is to remove the unit from your camera and light your subject or scene from an off-camera position. This solution may be simple, but the execution of the technique requires knowledge and some practice. You can learn more about the technique by reading these and other PhotographyTalk.com articles:
Digital Photography—How to Choose an Off-Camera Flash
Digital Photography—How To Use Fill-Flash to Improve Your Pictures, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
Photography Tip—How To Mix Flash and Ambient Light for Better Photos
Photography Tip—More About How To Mix Flash and Ambient Light for Better Photos
When you do remove your flash unit from your camera, you’ll find that a light stand is its perfect companion. Selecting a light stand is dependent on the kind of photography you shoot. If you do many portraits or other types of studio work, then you may need larger stands that extend to ten feet or as much as 15, or heavy-duty stands if they must support larger flash units or light fixtures, plus umbrellas, softboxes and other lighting-equipment combinations. Having very tall stands is better than having them too short. Find yourself faced with creating a portrait of a family with all its members taller than six feet and you’ll be happy you invested in stands that extend to 12 feet or more.
As a studio photographer, you may also need background stands, which light subjects from below and behind. Some general light stands can be position low enough to serve as a background stand, but if portraiture is the bulk of you work, then stands made specifically for background work are preferable. If you are raising and lowering stands throughout the day, and some with heavy equipment, then another option is cushioned light stands. Some have leg locks that are cushioned with air, so if a lock is accidentally opened, the risers retracts slowly, protecting the light, the stand and any people in the studio.
If you plan to use a light stand outdoors, then a good choice is a sturdier model, with thicker legs, able to withstand wind and weather. A heavy-duty stand is definitely necessary if you are using umbrellas and softboxes outdoors, as they become excellent sails without much wind. You may even want to look for stands that can be secured to the ground if nature photography is your thing, and you like to light, or augment the ambient light, with one or more flash units.
If you’re a general photographer or maybe thinking of purchasing your first light stand, then a small, lightweight stand is probably your best choice. Look for models that are durable and easy to carry, i.e., folds into a short length. You’ll also want to find one that is affordable; and, fortunately, there are a number of choices that won’t break the budget of even the casual photographer.
One example is the LumoPro LP605 light stand. It comes in five sections and four risers and extends to a maximum of seven feet and retracts to just a bit more than 19 inches, which makes it perfect for traveling and hauling on shoots. (Please read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Photography Equipment Review—The LumoPro LP605 Reflex Light Stand and LP621 Miniature Boom Arm, for more information.)