Homegrown ultralight lightstands

A lightstand that weighs 0.4 kg, measures 40 cm packed, and 2 m unfolded. Huh?

The limiting factor for me when setting up many lights, is often how much weight and volume I can bring. This is one of the reasons I use small flashes in large quantity, instead of few large ones. With many small flashes I get more control over the light, being able to use more channels/heads. With cameras getting better and better in low light, loads of effect is often not that necessary anymore. If I still need lots of Ws, I'll bring many small ones together in a large cluster instead; enough to use in bright sun to battle the ambient.

Since I've made the switch from big studio cans, I've minimized weight and volume quite a bit, not just by flashes, but also softboxes and lightstands; Manfrottos smaller Stacker stands are great if you need many of them. But they're still the bulkiest part of the kit, and now I've constructed some really light ones myself, that's about one-third the weight of a normal small lighweight lightstand. They use materials from tent construction; actually the same stuff that many softboxes are built from, and similar to Tamrac's brand new Zipshot tripods; I've got a pair of those too, but need something taller and stronger.

A normal lightstand might weigh 2 kg, a small Stacker stand about 1.3 kg, and my homegrown ones offers the same height at 0.4 kg, and don't need any additional fasteners for attaching the softbox. Quick to set up and tear down. This means I'll be able to bring more flashes and stands to future jobs.

This video is a little special, being vertical; just like lightstands. The rattling sound comes from the cat messing with the camera :-)


Anton Ymer (pseudo) said...


Pretty clever. I need to go to the outdoors shop to stock up on some tent poles. :)

How do you fasten the umbrella/softbox? Is it just a small clamp on the rim and then a string to the top?

Also, how do you attach the tent poles to each other and to the string triangle at the bottom?

Are there any detail pictures on interesting parts?

Peter Karlsson said...

Everything is held together by the elastic cords inside, even the strings at the bottom and the joint on top. Same goes for the fastening of the softbox; line and small rings.

Jay said...

Are you going to make these as kits and sell them online? I'm up for a couple, it's a cool idea!

Jomi Garrucho said...

ingenius, thanks a lot for sharing

SaltGeorge said...

This is a really good design Peter. So the bottom triangle is just string stopping the poles from moving apart?

Nasir Hamid said...

Such a genius design!

Please would you show a detail image of how the (joint on top) black string that adjusts the umbrella height is attached to the tent poles?


Guy Montag said...

Saw this on the Strobist blog, ingenious work! Very clever! You should look into possibly selling these things - they're that cool!

Phat Baby Photographer said...

Nice and thanks for sharing.

Alex Gardner said...

That's such a simple design!

Have you used it on irregular surfaces or in windy locations? How did they perform?

G said...

Håll i dig, nu kommer det trafik från Strobist!!
Bra initiativ!


Peter Karlsson said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

I've built five of these now, and use them in my everyday commercial work. Setup is really fast, since everything can stay connected during transport. One of these are built a little different, see @ SaltGeorge below.

@ Jay: I won't sell them, but I'll put up an instruction on how to make them yourself; it's really easy.

@ SaltGeorge: yep, just cords. I've also built a version with the same metal rods separating the legs; slightly heavier, but stays put. I'll post pictures soon.

@ Nasir: coming. It's basically just cords under load, connected to a ring.

@ Alex: no, just indoors; they are so light they'll blow away outdoors. Should be possible to anchor them down with tent poles or the camera bag though, but they're made for indoors.

@ G: japp, kul med internationell trafik :-)

Adam McAnaney said...

This is a brilliant design. You really should patent the idea. Even if you don't want to make and sell these yourself, I'm sure you could sell the idea to a manufacturer. But if you want to give away the details for free...well, I can't wait! Would love to see more pictures, detailed part descriptions, etc.
BTW - your site is about to get crushed by Strobists... ;-)
Best, Adam

Peter Karlsson said...

Thanks for the idea about the patent, might look into that if I've got some time. I'm not such a money oriented guy.

I'm looking forward to some Strobist crush ;-)

volkoff said...

Hey! Great idea!
It would be VERY cool if you could do a video about how you assemble them. I'm still a bit clueless))

Congrats on the feature on strobist)

Peter Karlsson said...


I'll probably do that, but it will take a while; I'm leaving for some vacation tomorrow, the french alps. I'll get back on this.


CC said...

Hey Peter, great idea but unfortunately too late to Patent now the idea is out there. I had been keeping my stand design to myself with the intention of patenting (tedious expensive process) you can not patent an idea after making it public (sorry) but now yours is public I decided to publish my design if anyone wants to build their own version.


Peter Karlsson said...


That tripod's a real delicate beauty! Sorry if I've ruined your plans for a patent. I've just checked out that about patents also, but for me it's not a big deal, I've just made these for my own amusement, and to carry some less weight. I also noticed it's expensive. Merry christmas, Manfrotto/Bogen ;-)

Actually, the special version I mention above is almost like your construction, with solid spreaders a little lower than midways. Mine are done with collapsible rods with cords inside them though. Picture to come.

Much respect for your construction Chris!

JS said...

Beautiful. Very nice idea.

Maybe those tent poles could also facilitate a huge, portable diffusion screen. Hmmm...

CC said...

Hey Peter, No worries about the patent thing. It is funny how ideas spawn and grow. I have been too busy to put in the effort necessary to make this happen anyway so this is kind of a relief. Love the simple elegance of your design.

Peter Karlsson said...

Fun to talk to all you guys, appreciate it.

I've got some more ideas about constructions for photographic lighting equipment that's a bit more unconventional. I might build them, show them, and then not patent them, too ;-)

GeckoMark said...

Not sure where you got your rods from Peter, but I bet you could find parts cheaper by deconstructing some IKEA parts than by buying outdoors gear. Have you done any comparison on that? (I bought a kid's indoor tent from IKEA that uses poles like this, and have used them as make shift stands, but nothing as well put together as your stands...)

Peter Karlsson said...

Good idea, I've bought the stuff from a tent constructing company. Not that cheap, but less than a normal lightstand.

Any link to that tent?

Cheers /P

Simon said...

I'm pretty certain that you can't patent something _after_ a public disclosure. (Nice guys never win, sadly) In this case, the community wins, and Peter wins good feeling from the photographer world at large.

Nice work, thanks for sharing.

Peter Karlsson said...

Yep, that's the way it work. I'm perfectly alright with that :-)

Barrie said...

Fabulous. I love it. What a great idea. Im always carrying around heavy equipment around London on the way to jobs and although it keeps me fit it's a pain in the back(side). It's not going to be long before we see somehthing like this in the shops. If you or someone else decides to make this to see I'll be interested stocking it in my little sideline - my online store. I think it'll sell.

P.S Your photographic work is fantastic too :-)

Barrie Gordon Photographer Watford

Stobist and Camera Accessories

EV said...


Brilliant idea - thanks for sharing!

I totally agree with Adam that you should rapidly patent the idea and find a party who want to produce these for you.


Art said...

Great Design!

Tamrac does something similar (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10404460-1.html) but yours is much more elegant and more useful with the umbrella softbox!

Thank you for sharing!

Rob Greer said...

Very clever! Someone will be making and selling these in China next week.

Clive said...

Well if you can't patent it, the least we can do is name it.
So I suggest it be named the "Karlsson Stand".
Thank you for sharing your idea.

vikkijac said...

This IS great! Thanks Stobist for the link...

Will this work with dedicated lights as well as flashes? I've only recently begun venturing into the world of studio lighting (been focusing on natural light only-with reflectors and such)and can't really drop $500 for a flash yet...
Thanks so much for sharing!

Peter Karlsson said...

He, the "Karlsson stand", that's kind of amusing :-)

Actually, regardless of patent or not, China will build and sell anything profitable anyway.

And I'm actually contributing to that when I buy cheap (and good) Gitzo-ripoffs named Induro and Benro; I have three of those in different sizes, plus one good old Gitzo that once did cost about the same as all the new ones together.

Hey china, do copy these please, I'll buy them (cheaper than the material, I'm sure).

Rex said...

Maybe they could be called
(that's Light raised to the power of 2) as they are
Light lightstands :-)

Reine said...

Great idea Peter!

Congrats to a fellow Sweden to the sudden success! ;-)

As GeckoMarc I immediately saw the potential of ripping my son's Ikea tent (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30073090) and steal the two tentpoles (there are two of them, 250 cm / 100 inches long in five sections). Three tents give you two tripods... Mind the quality though...

By the way Peter, great photos (the B&W are defintely an inspiration!) and hope you get a good trip to the French Alps :-D

Peter Karlsson said...


I'm so thankful for all the comments.

I'm leaving for the French Alps in a couple of hours, and will be back again one week from now. I'll put up a new video then at www.strobist.com, to show the details about the construction, and how to build them. I've got the go-ahead from David, so it will happen.

Talk to you soon /Peter

Rob Byron said...

Np Peter! You can't go to the Alps now. You must stay and do the instructional video! :-)

Oh, well. I tried. Looking forward tihe the video!

Ronaszegi design imaging photography said...


Thank you for sharing this excellent idea with fellow photographers. As an architectural photographer I do carry my equipment to locations, and reducing the weight would be an amazing plus. Looking forward to detailed instructions!

Arpad Ronaszegi

Germana said...

Great idea!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

bekz said...

Great idea! Have been looking for something like this. Though the materials are pretty difficult to get in my part of the city will surely try this out.

Eagerly waiting for the consturction video.

Wish a happy vacation and a good future

Jontajonta said...

Nice one. Looking forward to instructions. Thanks for the IKEA-tip Reine.

Idea for keeping it somewhat stable in windy conditions: Loop for tent peg.

Anonymous said...

I'll be anxiously awaiting a link to a written form of instructions, as video breaks up in my slow internet connection.
Thanks for sharing!

JT said...

You have already made it as a successful photographer. Kudos to you for sharing your knowledge for free to those still trying to make it. Hopefully we will remember to do the same.

By the way, I love your use of depth of field in your interior shots. Most interiors are shot at f/8 or more, so yours are refreshing. I might steal a bit of that idea for my next shoot too ;-). I appreciate what you've done.

robert said...

peter, really great idea which I look forward to experimenting with. Thank you for sharing this. One question, would you mind posting what brand of softbox-umbrella and flash bracket you are using? i really like the look of these. Many thanks, Robert,

Micha Sanders Photography said...

Great idea! I've constructed a variety of homemade light stands over the years. The design is simple and looks great in your studio.

You can buy "Shock Cord" through various manufactures and after doing a search for tent pole sections, I'm ordering some from http://www.polesforyou.com

Check out their pricing section.

Thanks again for sharing...


Micha Sanders Photography said...

Just found a company that sells carbon fiber cords and poles. The cords are stronger than shock cords and the poles are about half the weight of aluminum. http://www.fibraplex.com

Rebecca Little said...

Thanks for sharing. Very cool looking. Can't wait to see the follow-up video.

rob said...

Great idea! Thx for sharing it!
Can u tell me what kind of softboxumbrella u used?

Aleš Vaupotič said...

First, brilliant idea. Second, since you are Peter and stand is yours, it is Peter's stand, right? Shortly PeterStand.

Kristyanna Virgona said...


It was a very informative Video, though you should learn the names of the materials that you used.;-}
The elastic cord that is in the center of sections of fiberglass poles its called shock cord or bungee cord.

It is constructed of continuous rubber elastic strands with an outer nylon sheath. Bungee cord materials consist of (these are brand names) Polypropylene, heavy duty nylon, OCE fiber, and EPDM rubber strands. Is it sold here in the US.

Peter, I am a 56 yr old College student I have gone back to school to get my AA in Graphic Design & Photography. I have been taking photo's since I was 13. My Dad was a Portrait Photographer. Myself , I am physically unable to carry a lot of heavy object. My camera equipment has to be very light. That said It would cost less then getting the heavy Softboxes or umbrella's and stands. two of your inventions with say two Nikon SB900 weighs about a third of just just one of my standard 32" softbox, light or strobe and stand.

I hope you are successful with this product and any other projects in the works.

Regards and Great shooting,

Kristyanna Virgona
Dunsmuir, CA
P.S. My website I created and I am still working on at school in our Dreamweaver CS4 Class Last Fall 2009

Peter Karlsson said...

Hey all of you,

Much thanks for the comments, feedback and everything!

I've filmed some clips for the how-to this weekend, it's coming.

@ Micha: nice. Carbon fibre would half the weight, or even less, it seems. 200 g for a lightstand would be sick :-)

@ Rob: the softboxes are Lastolites Umbrella soft box; super quick to set up/tear down, and since light bounces on white before hitting the diffusion screen, it's the softest softboxes I've tried; absolutely even coverage. I have 6 of them, use them all the time. Durability for professional use might not be top notch, but what box would live years without signs of wear?

@ Kristyanna: I see your need for light gear. I like that too. Good luck in the future.

Cheers! /Peter

alex said...

gives a whole new meaning to the term "light tent."

Paul Feng said...

Regarding patenting, there may be possibilities still. Most nations of the world have a “first to file” patent system, and in addition, you’re out of luck after making a public disclosure. However, the United States (which alone is a decent-sized market) has a “first to invent” patent system, and you can file up to one year after disclosing your invention.

There are complicating factors, such as Peter and Chris could both file applications for the same invention (more precisely, they could file “claims” reading on the same invention), which can then result in an “interference” being declared in the US Patent & Trademark Office – then it could involve a documentation process of who did what when, and whether they were diligent in pursuing their ideas, and so on... all of which can be very expensive (unless you represent yourself – not recommended).

Then, if you actually get a patent, there is the issue of enforcing it, for example, by suing infringers. You may be able to prevent or stop the big companies and stores from selling your invention, but good luck against small internet operations – and of course, you’re not going to sue everyone who goes to an outdoors store to by poles and build their own.

So – we’re presumably at the same place, i.e., never mind patenting – but maybe for your next invention...

Peter Karlsson said...


Patents sounds like something designed for big companies with the financial and juridic muscles to pursue what's necessary. Not for me; I'm happy with my small scale life :-)

Thanks for the insights around this matter, interesting reading.


Al Gardner said...


I would like to congratulate you on such a novel idea. I travel by air and this will be a very good way to lighten my load. I realized after watching both of your videos that the music was very pleasant. Can you tell me the name of the composer and the title of the piece. I assume it is a classical piece. Thanks for your fantastic idea.

Al Gardner

Peter Karlsson said...


Good that it will benefit your travels! It does so for me too. Also, setup/teardown is faster now. Drawback is stability, but inside it's OK. A plus is that the stands can be literally placed on top of each other, or really close.

The music piece is "Arabesque" by Debussy.