One of the most common questions I see on social media, especially just after somebody’s posted an image shot on location with flash, is “How do you stop your light stands from falling over?” – which isn’t an unreasonable question to expect. When it’s just you and your subject, how do people stop their light stands from falling over?
Well, you could carry a bunch of heavy sandbags around with you, or make sure to hire an assistant for all of your location shoots, but photographer Wayne Speer has another idea – especially when shooting in locations with soft ground. He uses tent pegs and rope.
It’s a great way to keep your stands pegged down – quite literally – so that they don’t fall over due to being top heavy or during a bit of a breeze. I’ve been using this technique myself for about a decade now, although I strap mine down slightly differently to Wayne.
You can see in the images above that Wayne ties his around the upper locking mechanism where the three legs connect to the centre column and then uses two pegs to hold it down. I’m overkill when I do it – but then I’m usually on location with a 4ft octabox. I use six pegs and tie down each leg individually using 2 pegs each along with bungee cord – a bit like this terrible diagram I just made in Photoshop.
I use bungee cord rather than rope because I’d rather it have a little bit of give, instead of risking bending and snapping the light stand’s centre column. They’re usually pretty strong, but when you’ve got that much weight on there, that’s a lot of force. I use them in this position because it helps to keep that centre of gravity pulling against the wind much lower to the ground. And I put it on all three because this is Scotland, so the wind can switch direction at a moment’s notice. So I want to make sure all three are well tied down while I’m shooting.
The disadvantage of using six pegs with bungee cord rather than Wayne’s two pegs with rope, however, is that it takes longer to tie it down and then to remove it again without risking the bungee cord snapping back and hitting you in the face. But usually when I’m setting up a light this way on location, I’m not planning to move it for a while anyway.
Make sure you get tent pegs or spikes suitable for the ground you plan to shoot on. Wayne says that he plans to use sand spikes when he does his beach photo shoots. And, of course, if you’re on concrete, you should probably stick to those heavy sand bags.
A great tip, and one that I didn’t realise so few people knew until I saw Wayne’s post in a Facebook group. You can check out Wayne’s work over on his website.
How do you stop your lights from falling over on location?
Disclaimer: If you do this, you do so at your own risk. Don’t blame us (or Wayne) if you use the wrong pegs, or the rope snaps, or your light comes crashing down to the ground for some other reason. This is the way we do it. If you choose to do it as well, that’s on you.