Alternative to light stand Sandbags

Putting up light stands or background stands can be a hazardous affair if the centre of gravity is too high, i.e. top heavy. There is nothing worse than stands falling down and destroying equipment or hurting people. This is why you should weight them down, normally with sandbags, but I have another idea. Photography sandbags not only cost quite a bit of money, you still have to source the filling after you’ve bought them, and they are only good for one thing, being a sandbag. If only you could use something else that can also have a function after you’ve used it on your light stands, and chances are, you’ve already got them!

I speak of the humble dumbbells. A set of these, say 20kg, costs approx £24 and up.


All boom operators almost certainly have a set for training, but if you haven’t got a set, you probably should, even if you don’t intend using them for training. They are extremely versatile and can be used for things like counter weights, doorstops, jib weights, keeping fit, and the subject of todays post, light stand stability. Also, they won’t split and pour sand everywhere and can easily be moved around in their case (I say easily, they are heavy of course!)

These 20kg sets usually come in a split of different weights. The one I have is an 18kg set and comes with:

4 x 2Kg
4 x 1.25Kg
4 x 0.5kg
(and the bars & clamps)

All you need to turn these into a decent weight system for light stand is some rope. I have worked out that a piece of rope 1M long is the optimum. The piece I am using is 1cm thick. It’s really simple.

1. Cut the rope with a stanley knife to 1M
2. Melt the ends to seal them with an open flame (this can be dangerous, but also can be fun. The sound of burning blobs of nylon falling is awesome. In fact, I must record it and use that somewhere.)
3. Tie a double knot at one end.


4. Thread your weights on.
5. Tie a double knot at the other end.


How many weights is the question and will depend on the stability required, the weight of what it’s supporting whether there is wind etc. I have used them in a few configurations. For my 650w lamps, 3.75Kg seems sufficient most of the time, for more hazardous locations, or when setting up greenscren stands, I use 6.5Kg. This allows me to get 4 sets and 2 sets of ballast respectively from the one set of dumbbells.

6.5Kg Setup

3.75Kg Setup

The IM rope does allow flexibility in terms of how many weights can be used. If few weights are on, and it’s loose, just wrap it around the base to lose a bit of rope. All in all, it packs down easily and your dumbbell weights can be used for more than just holding down a light stand.
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