Put Your Tripod to Work as a Light Stand

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I love any camera gear that can do more than one job. That means I can pack less and pack lighter when I travel. I’m even happier if I can put something I’m already carrying to a different use. I was recently looking for a way to use my tripod, which I alway carry, as a stand for a speedlight and maybe an umbrella. You don’t need a lot of equipment for great lighting in the field. I made this portrait of my wife with just one speedlight, a shoot-through umbrella and a reflector.

My first idea was to use a Bogen super-clamp to attach an umbrella bracket to one leg of the tripod, but I figured it would be a bad idea to clamp something down too hard around the carbon-fiber leg of a tripod. I’m also trying to pack as light as possible and super-clamps are relatively heavy for their size.

I came up with a simple solution using parts I already have, and mostly parts that I would pack normally anyway. I took the tripod quick release plate off of one of my cameras and attached a cold shoe adapter to it using the mounting screw on the plate. Now I can mount a speedlight to the tripod and adjust the angle with the ballhead. The best part is that I’ve done this for free and without adding any weight to my camera bag.

Cold shoe mounted to the camera plate

Cold shoe mounted to the camera plate

So, what if I want to use a light modifier? I can attach the brass mounting insert from an umbrella bracket to the quick-release plate. Then I can mount the umbrella bracket to my ballhead. Now I can get a better quality of light, and I’ve only added an umbrella bracket and a small umbrella to my regular kit.

Umbrella bracket mounted to the camera plate

Umbrella bracket mounted to the camera plate

Of course you could buy an extra quick release plate to use with your lights, and Really Right Stuff even sells a Flash Mount for their clamps, but why spend the money if you don’t have to? If you usually use your camera on your tripod and your off-camera lights at the same time, this will not be the solution for you. But if you normally use either one or the other, this is an easy way to get more use out of the equipment you already have. If you’re shooting with a friend who has a tripod, bring along an extra umbrella bracket and you’ve got a mobile 2-light studio!

Know any tricks to help keep my camera bag lighter? I’d love to hear them!


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This post was written by:

- who has written 23 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Knight is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and a two-time Photoshop Guru finalist. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Rob loves to travel and share his passion for photography with others. You can follow Rob on twitter @RobKnightPhoto, and find out about Rob's classes and photo workshops at Rob Knight Photography

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6 Responses to “Put Your Tripod to Work as a Light Stand”

  1. Ron Says:

    Now I’ve got a use for that less expensive (uh…cheap) tripod I bought before I knew what I was doing! Thanks for the idea!

    Reply

  2. JohnS Says:

    Me too, great use for my old Wal-mart tripod.

    Reply

  3. Vincent Says:

    Rob,
    You stated “I can attach the brass mounting insert from an umbrella bracket to the quick-release plate”. How exactly do you do this and is another piece necessary? Do you have a link to the umbrella bracket and any other pieces we might need to accomplish this?
    Thanks,
    Vincent

    Reply

  4. se Says:

    thanks for the tip
    I am going to try this

    Reply

  5. vivek Says:

    Thanks for the great tip. Can you please provide links for buying cold shoe mount and the umbrella you use with what else to buy to mount on the tripod please?

    Reply


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