The Big Mistake Portrait Photographers Make That Could Cost Them

Light stands are essential for photographers, but so too are the support items.

Years ago, I had a roommate that asked me to shoot portraits for him. Typically, this is just fine. He’s a friend. He’s not a bad guy. It’s fine. “Hey Chris, I need a new photo right now,” he said. After I questioned why he explained that a ton of women was on the dating apps at the time. Mind you, it was a few days after Hurricane Sandy ended. It was very windy too. So my roommate and I walked across the street to take a specific photo of him. We chose a wardrobe beforehand, planned it out, and set to work. I didn’t think it would end up costing me a trip to the hospital. Photographers, don’t make the same mistake.

We went outside. It was supposed to be routine. A quick pose. One light. One lens. One camera. Quick and simple. We went to shoot a few portraits, and then it happened. A light fell on my head and cracked the skin open a bit. I was bleeding a whole lot. Thankfully there was no concussion. But this could’ve been avoided. 

The light had an umbrella to spread it out more evenly. The shot looked great. But after that, I needed to go to the hospital. After waiting for a few hours, I got the painful staples put in my head. Those really, really hurt. 

This all could’ve been avoided in a few ways.

Always Use Sandbags, Photographers

I’ve seen tons of new photographers doing shoots that sometimes irk me a bit. As much as possible, I urge everyone to always use sandbags. They’ll keep nightstands down and everyone safe. If I was using a sandbag, my light stand and light probably wouldn’t have fallen on my head. This would’ve avoided a trip to the hospital too.

And if you don’t have a sandbag, find another way to secure your gear. Use sailing rope and tie it down to a specific area. Have an assistant hold it. Just do something!

Always Properly and Fully Secure the Lights and Modifiers

Umbrellas are wonderful. But they can cause a lot of problems. Think of them as sails on a boat. In fact, the same applies to beauty dishes, softboxes, etc. They’re going to catch the air and move your light. The larger the light modifier is, the more air it will capture. And the more dangerous your shoot can be when you’re on location. 

Even if you’re using a fan to blow a model’s hair, it can be dangerous. Take the safety precautions. You don’t need you or your subject getting hurt.

Tighten every single part of the light stand, the male/female connectors, etc. This is a big vouch to not use the cheap stuff either. The cheap stuff may probably snap in half because it’s not designed to handle tougher conditions. It’s instead designed to just do a standard job and to get a no-brainer sale. But solid light stands, arms, and grip gear are very worth the investment.

Don’t Shoot in the Wind and Take Risks.

Lastly, really don’t ever shoot in high winds. Some shoots require it. And those should really be worth the risk. Don’t do it just for fun or as a favor to someone. You’re probably going to get hurt. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.