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Background Stands Aren’t Just for Studio Backdrops

When you think of background stands, if you think about them at all, what likely comes to mind is how useful they are for doing one thing very well: supporting a roll of seamless paper or a muslin backdrop for your shoot.

You also know they’re portable and lightweight, making them easy to adjust in the studio or take on location whenever a backdrop is needed. Without a good stand, such as Savage Universal’s Port-A-Stand, it’s much more challenging to hang backdrops. So it’s obvious why all kinds of photographers consider the stands essential to their work.

However, what many photographers don’t realize are the number of other valuable uses these simple tools have to offer. They can be much more than mere backdrop stands. After all, anything with a solid foundation and the ability to telescope both upward and side-to-side makes an extremely versatile piece of gear.

The Savage Port-A-Stand can reach a height of nearly nine feet. Combined with the adjustable crossbar that has a max width of 9’ 5,” the stand can get your things both high up and wide apart, which is exactly the capability that you want when conducting a photo shoot. It’s perfect for hanging, supporting, and framing all kinds of objects with stability and ease.

For example, let’s say you’re working with a model in a city park, photographing her in a variety of dresses for a catalog. Sooner or later she is going to need a dressing room. You don’t want to put on a public peep show, so what to do?

Dressing Room

Background stands to the rescue! You’ll need at least six to eight clamps for this mod. Place a sheet on the crossbar, fix it to the stands with the clamps so it makes a solid screen, and move the entire arrangement against a row of bushes or a tree at an angle to create a private area. If you’re shooting indoors or anywhere with walls, you can do the same thing by moving the stands into a corner, creating a triangle of private space. Your model will thank you!

For even more versatility, let’s say you have 4 background stands. Now you can make a square with a total of four horizontal crossbars, making a box frame. By hanging four sheets you’ll have a stand-alone dressing room that can be placed almost anywhere.


This same square arrangement can also become your new favorite softbox for portraits. Hang white sheets on two sides and over the top to make a 3-sided “room” that creates flattering, diffused light within a people-sized space. For the background you can add another sheet, a muslin, seamless paper, or just leave it open to the landscape (or street-scape) beyond. This arrangement works equally well in the studio or on location.

Speaking of softboxes, you can use the basic two-stand setup to create yet another light modifier. Take a white sheet or a roll of Savage Universal’s Translum paper, and hang it onto the crossmember, using your clamps draw it tight at all corners. By placing your subject on one side of this translucent white wall, and aiming your light source through it towards your subject, you’ll have created a large softbox perfect for portraiture and product photos. You can multiply these makeshift softboxes by adding more background stands to achieve even more versatile lighting for larger objects.

Light Stand

Sometimes what you need is a way to arrange props and lights about your model or subject. A background stand makes this easy. You can go as high as needed for proper placement, and with a few clamps or even – in a pinch – duct tape, you can fix a flash unit to the stands or crossmember. You’ll have the flexibility to place the light wherever needed, at whatever angle you wish.

Most people don’t regard them as such, but a background stand also makes perfect light stands. The top of each stand is fitted with a universal stud for easy mounting. It’s nice to know you’ve got extra light stands available without having to bring more gear!

Multi-Use Hangers

Background stands also make great multi-use hangers for everything from display panels to banners to signage. They’re ideal for helping to make a visual impact at trade shows and events where you also need portability.

Some photographers have more creative uses for background stands. Need to hang a set of drapes over a window that lacks blinds? The stands can solve that easily with some dark fabric draped over the crossmember and set in front of the window.

Creative Uses

There’s plenty of other uses too. They work great as clothes hangers when doing the laundry. Or serving as a perch for avian pets. You can hang a pinata from them at a child’s birthday party. Or create a patch of shade on a hot afternoon using a sheet and clamps. Some even use it as a bike rack for hanging their bikes! Or you can attach flowers to the crossmember for a charming wedding arch that the bride and groom can walk through on their way to the altar.

There’s no shortage of possible ways to expand the usefulness of a backdrop stand. And you thought they were just for backdrops.

Elias Butler

Elias Butler is a professional photographer and writer based in Arizona. He's written a book titled "Grand Obsession" and has been published in Sierra, USA Today, and Arizona Highways among many others. See Butler's website here.


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