Put Down That Tripod and Grab Your C-Stand for Overhead Food Photography

You don’t have to stand on the table to get those beautiful overhead photographs of your latest fabulous food creation. Forget the tripod and pull out the multipurpose C-stand.

In this video from The Bite Shot, Joanie Simon provides a quick lesson on why you might want to use a C-stand instead of a tripod and how to go about setting one up. While Simon may not know why it is called a C-stand (it’s short for century stand) and she might not use the highly recommended sandbag, the video does give a good overview.

I love my C-stands, and like most people, I usually use them for holding my lighting and modifiers. However, when I’m doing overhead food photography, I always pull out one of my C-stands to keep my camera over the food. I’ve found for me, they give me a very sturdy platform to hold the camera while also giving me lots of adjustability to get my camera in just the right position. As mentioned above, I always use at least one sandbag on the C-stand. Not only does this provide some weight to counteract the camera hanging off the other side, but it also helps to keep the C-stand from moving when I accidentally bump it when I’m positioning the food. This always happens at least once during the shoot.

So the next time you are doing an overhead shot of either food or some other product, think of using your C-stand instead of that tripod.

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16 Comments

That's a great idea! I can't tell you how many times, I've fought with my tripod for overhead shots. :-(

Roberto Adrian Sanchez's picture

also helps to use a camera with an angle LCD.

I use a geared 6' boom attached to a geared head, lots more control.

David Moore's picture

Also a lot of effing money.

William Howell's picture

What do you use to attach the geared head to the boom? I use a Kupo 1/4-in-20 Threaded Mounting Plate with Baby 5/8’’ (16mm) Stud.
I was just wondering if maybe you had something more stable, because I use a boom stand too.

William Howell It's something like this or very similar: https://www.adorama.com/bg3102.html I like that you can mount it 2 different ways.
David Moore I bought it used 20 years ago. It was cheap back then.
I also shoot to a computer to see easier. Or to an HDMI field monitor for video.

Johnny Rico's picture

Did I miss the part where she states to boom the weight out in the direction the knuckle tightens? (I skimmed the video) She has it proper but if she doesn't specifically state that...

Tony Clark's picture

I've used the Matthews C Stand method but the Hollywood Arm doesn't handle vibration well when using a 1Dx. I prefer the Manfrotto Arm on my 3233 tripod or the 90 degree center column on the 055ProB when traveling lighter.

I typically use the center column on my 055CXProB but, as stated in the video, usually have to stand it on the table (never good) and it's not very stable (no counterweight).

Well, uh, I have a tripod with a neck can swivel over to 90 degrees. Although that's really only useful for more macro level shots in this situation since anything below the camera on the tripod in that configuration will be pretty close and any shot wide enough would have the tripod's legs in it if the subject were on the floor or the tripod on the table.

Stephen Nolly's picture

Couple things: 1) C-stand for named because it was used to hold the popular 100 Inch (Century) reflector. 2) The sandbag goes on the highest leg. Always. Putting on the knuckle will make it top-heavy. If you put it up top, when someone knocks into it (which is why you always use sandbags) it will drive your camera to the ground with even greater force and mass.
tl;dr 1)Boom goes over the top leg. 2)Sandbag goes on top leg. (also: 3)Boom arm goes out to the right of the knuckle so that the weight tightens the arm, not loosens.)

Douglas Turney's picture

I'm not a believer in the "boom goes over the top leg and the top leg carries the sand bag". I'm planning an article that shows from my engineering background why this is incorrect. Not going to get into the details here because.......well that's what my article is going to be about.

Maarten Stappaerts's picture

I am with Stephen Nolly on this one, boom goes over the top leg (or in its extend backwards in the middle of the 2 lower legs, don't forget to turn your head 180° for this to prevent sagging).
Sandbag goes always over the top leg because the center of gravity needs to be kept as low as possible.Ok, I agree the top leg is not the lowest point on the stand but by putting the weight near the center column on the top leg the weight of the sandbag (gravity) will firmly put all three legs down to the ground.

Jared Wolfe's picture

wow, she is really annoying. I will pass on watching. But C-stands really are great for top down shots. I use them for overhead baby shots in studio and also "babes in bed" overhead shots. I use a telescoping heavy duty boom arm though. The standard arm has a bit too much flex and limited reach. I also use the Kupo baby ball head adapter to mount the camera.

She isn't annoying; she's helpful. Your comment isn't helpful; it's annoying.

And you are idiotically annoying