Some of my favorite lighting tools for photography and video is the humble reflector. They are extremely versatile and they require no power. Just put them anywhere you need them and voila! Enhanced lighting!
Holding them in place, a photographer can quickly run out of hands. The way to get around recruiting multiple assistants only to hold a reflector in place is to use the best reflector stands to position the reflector where needed.
How a reflector can help your video and photography
A reflector is one of the most basic light modifiers. Other light modifiers include diffusers, umbrellas, soft boxes, filters, scrims, barn doors, snoots, grids, and the list goes on. What is a reflector? In photography and cinematography, a reflector is an improvised or specialized reflective surface used to redirect light towards a given subject or scene.
A reflector is a passive device, in other words, it requires no power itself. All we need is one light, and with a reflector or two, we can emulate a multiple light set up. Sunlight can be that one light in our arrangement.
One of the outdoor portrait tricks I learned early on is to place the subject facing away from the sun. That way, they don’t squint and there aren’t any harsh shadows across the nose or calling attention to wrinkles or folds of flesh from an awkward pose.
A reflector can also be used with subject matter other than people. Imaging a large product with many parts, like say a motorcycle or a kitchen appliance, can stretch our lighting gear capabilities. Adding a strategically placed reflector or two can enable a better lighting arrangement. Here is a good video on how to make the most of your reflector.
In cinematography, c-stands, or Century stands, have long been a key fixture on set. They are used to position modifiers in front of the lights. Being separated from the lights allows for much versatility in placement. Many reflector stands are pretty much smaller versions of c-stands.
How I found the best reflector stands
- Height is a primary consideration. We need versatility in reflector placement, so being adjustable for enough height is vital. We also need to able to get low enough if that is the need.
- Weight is also vital especially if we do a lot of location photo shoot or videos. We don’t want to ignore weight in studio either. Sometimes it’s more weight that works best.
- Size is more than mere height. We also look at the foot print of the stand, how much room on the floor it takes up. A larger foot print may allow us to hold more weight or a boom arm. A smaller foot print could be necessary for tight quarters, whether in studio or on location.
- Functionality refers to how the reflector stand works. Mostly the way the legs deploy and if the extending and contracting of the stand segments are controlled in any way. If it uses a boom, how the boom arm counter balanced is important.
- Mount type and compatibility are important to know if we are using certain specialty items or may do so in the future. Some are made specifically designed to hold the collapsible disc shaped reflectors.
Top 5 Best Reflector Stands For Superior Lighting
1. LimoStudio Swivel Head Reflector Stand Review
For this unit, I begin with looking at the light stand, height is adjustable from 50″ up to about 86″. It is pretty light weight, putting it all together the weight is 8 pounds. Easy to pick up and move one handed.
There is a ¼ inch standard screw thread tip to attach a wide variety of mounts to. I felt the legs and segments locked securely, and untightening was easily accomplished.
The reflector holder adjusts from 26 to 48 inches and fits right on top of the stand. A spring clip holds the reflector in place and any shape reflector can be used. Round, oval, square, or octagonal.
I was able to put this together with little difficulty and could place it in virtually position I desired. The only problem I had was having to weigh it down outside in a breeze. This will happen with any reflector, though, it’s not peculiar to this stand only. It is because the reflector acts like a sail or kite in even a moderate breeze.
While we’re on the subject of the reflectors, let’s talk about what the basic colors they tend to come in can be used for. This is not specific to this brand, it will apply generically. Then, we’ll get back to the 5 best reflector stands review.
White is great for reducing shadows, it casts a soft light onto the subject for very a natural and neutral effect. White doesn’t alter the color of the primary light source.
Black reflectors are excellent for absorbing unwanted light and for casting strategically placed shadows. Placed near the head of a portrait subject, black can help soften the eyes, making them appear more natural in high contrast light, like you might find under direct sun.
Gold is a very warming color, and is often used in natural light portraits.
Shining a light through the translucent disc softens the light the most, and decreases light intensity as well. Overall this is hands down one of the best reflector stands on the market!
2. Neewer Pro Adjustable Reflector Stand Review
A professional caliber c-stand, this heavy duty stand comes with a boom arm and clamps for holding a wide variety of light modifiers, including whatever collapsible reflectors you may already have.
When I say heavy duty, I also mean this c-stand is heavy. At 21 pounds, it securely held a large reflector outside in a slight breeze. For stronger or gustier wind, I would place a sand bag on one of the legs.
All metal construction and the thick, non folding legs gave me a real sense of security when I extended it to the 10 foot maximum height. Having rigid legs means it won’t fold up compactly for travel or storage, but they do swing together to minimize its profile.
The only real downside to this c-stand is the relatively high price, but then, it is a professional piece of lighting equipment.
3. LimoStudio Photo Studio Lighting Reflector Arm Stand Review
A very light weight and affordable reflector stand, I can carry this anywhere I need to hold a reflector.
Coming in at under 5 pounds, the stand raises to 7 feet and the boom arm extends out to around 6 feet. So, you could actually get a whole lot of height if you angle the boom arm upwards. There is a sand bag included for counter balancing the boom arm, which it definitely needs if extended to near the maximum.
It seems a little lighter duty, so I would probably stick with using it for reflectors and not try to mount any lights on it. Especially so with the boom arm.
It folds up to a very compact travel and travel size. All you need to supply is the reflector, accommodates sizes up to 54 inches.
4. Neewer Pro Version Photo Studio Reflector and Stand Kit Review
Neewer gives us this very capable kit, complete with a 5-in-1 reflector and a sand bag for counter balance of the boom arm, at a moderate price. Usable for still or video, this 10 pound rig folds up compactly for travel and storage.
A wide footprint steadies the almost 9 foot height and 6 foot boom arm. The sand bags can go on the legs for even more security. It has a holder specifically designed for the collapsible reflectors up to about 48 inches.
Besides reflectors, lights can be mounted to this, just be sure to secure the legs with a sand bag if you need to extend a light out a ways on the boom arm.
5. Adorama Flashpoint Ballhead Telescoping Reflector Holder Review
A light stand is not included with this extremely adjustable reflector holder. It mounts on top of almost any light stand and can hold reflectors from small to about 60 inches or so.
It uses a ball and socket style adapter mount for versatility in reflector placement.
This is a great option is you already have some stands with your equipment. Instead of opting for a brand new stand all together, you can reuse your existing one which mean more versatility while saving money.
Hopefully this guide has helped steer you in the right direction on how to best light your next photography or video shoot. If you want to learn more about reflectors, you can check out this handy guide here. Also if you want the sharpest images possible, I would recommend using a good Manfrotto tripod to get started.