Speedlight vs Monolight on Location: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey
Speedlight vs Monolight on Location: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

in this video I take a small speed light, and see if it can shoot location flash portraits just as well as a big monolight. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey, and you’re watching AdoramaTV, brought to you by Adorama, the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers… Now whenever I do a video in my small home studio using a mono light flash, one of the most commonly asked questions is can I do exactly the same thing using a speed light? And the answer is always the same yes… yes you can absolutely, but what about on location? Well that’s a different story and in this video I’m gonna take both flashes on location, and do three very common lighting scenarios. I’m gonna use the flashes as fill flash, I’ll use them to overpower the ambient light, and finally we’ll do some high-speed sync flash. So to help me out today I’ve got the amazing Charlotte. Charlotte’s gonna be the model for this shoot, and the first look I want to do should be the easiest for both flashes.. I want to take the ambient light and add a little bit of fill flash… not too much, something fairly subtle. Now for this to work… the first thing I’m gonna do is work out what is the ambient light. So without actual flash firing, let’s just take a meter reading as such. So I’m going to come back here where I’m going to be shooting. I’ve got quite a bright sky behind me… I’m not too worried about keeping too much detail in… Charlotte’s in the shade moe… so actually everywhere is shady today, and at these settings… I’m getting about f3.5, 1/250th of a second ISO 200, the native ISO for my camera so all I need to do now is to get my flash to match those settings, now I could do this by trial and error but if you have a flash meter this is where it really pays off, so let’s just get a flash meter reading from Charlotte’s chin pointing the flash meter back at the lights and I just adjust this until it matches my camera settings… okay there we go, we’re pretty much there, that’s it perfect, okay, so I have the light matching what I need to do now is just take some photos look into the light for me Charlotte. The mono light is right down close to its lowest possible power, and the results are looking great… so I’m gonna take the same shot again, but this time I’m gonna use the speed light. So let’s get the speed light set up with the same light modifier, and we’re get it in roughly the same position, something like that, and we’ll take a meter reading and it’s the same technique. All I’m looking for… is to make sure that the flash matches my aperture… I’m right the way down at 132nd power until I get this. Right let’s take this shot… here we go Charlotte, the subtle effect I’m going for here means I’m not really stretching the power of this speed light at all, and the results look excellent. In fact when I look at the two results side-by-side, I honestly couldn’t tell you which was taken with a speed light and which was taken with a monolight. So for this setup, I want to do something much more dramatic… I want to overpower the ambient now, to do that I’m gonna run the flash at full power, and just see what sort of aperture I can get out of this flash. So we’re starting with the monolight – the Explorer 600, and it’s gonna take a meter reading from Charlotte I’m getting f/22 at full power… so I could run this at f/22 but I don’t want to run the flash at full power… because it will take longer to recycle wear the battery down… so if I bring the flash down to half power, I hit f/16, so let’s take a picture at f/16 without flash first of all… just to see how much drama I can get in the sky, which is the whole purpose of doing this.. Okay Charlotte here we go… and f/16, I’ve got some great clouds… they look excellent… but Charlotte clearly is in deep shadow. Then if I turn the flash on… well the flash has been meted for f/16…. so it should work really well, and it does, this is where the monolight should really excel. All that raw power means I get some very dramatic photos, whether you like this particular style or not. Well that’s another matter.. so now I’ve swapped it out to the speed light, I’ve got the same modifier… it’s roughly the same distance away. I’ve got it on full power… let’s see exactly how much light I can get out of this. So we were f/22 with the other light at full power… really… getting f/11… that’s really good…. f/11 it is then… so let’s take a few pictures… and see how this works actually in a real shoot… okay? here we go… Charlotte I’m gonna move around…. you know what I’m really surprised at what this little speed light is doing… yes I’m at full power so the recycle time isn’t brilliant but it is powered by a lithium battery, so it’s not too bad either… side by side I actually prefer the speed light picture, but of course the monolight gives me more flexibility. I can also match the speed light settings but at a lower flash power, less consumption of battery, faster recycle time, and so on. So for the final setup we’re gonna do perhaps the most challenging thing for any flash, and that’s high speed sync flash, now you might have thought that the last setup, overpowering the ambient was for high speed sync type work… but no high speed sync is not for that because of how it works… it strobes the light rapidly, meaning you get less power out of the lights… High speed sync flash is for a shallow depth-of-field, so I’ve switched to my 25mm f/1.2, and I want to shoot to f/1.2, so I’m going to turn the flash off first of all. I’m going to dial in f/1.2, I’m gonna go with my flash sync speed of 1/250th of a second and take a picture of Charlotte, and just see what I get at those settings… Charlotte, don’t turn it… face me, great, here we go and at those settings Charlotte looks really well exposed, but that sky the background, everything is really blown out… so I want to try and retain the detail in the background… let’s try 4,000th of a second, see how that looks… Here we go… so now I have a nice amount of detail in the background, I have a good sky it’s not blown out but Charlotte is clearly underexposed, and that’s where the flash comes in, and the downside of high speed sync is most flash meters won’t work…. So that’s no good for me… I have to do this by trial and error…. so let’s turn the flash on I’m gonna start to maybe a quarter power and see how this looks… here we go… quarter power- way too bright, let’s take it down to 1/16 power and that looks fantastic… okay… so let’s take a few shots like this. The monolight makes high-speed sync flash an absolute breeze… is no different to shooting with normal flash but with these amazingly shallow depth-of-field results. So once again I’ve switched it out to the speed light, I’m gonna do exactly the same high speed sync settings as I did with the monolight. I don’t think this is gonna cope, but we’ll see…. so 1/4,000 of a second I’m gonna put this to full power. It’s got to be full power I reckon, so let’s take a test shot… see what we’re getting… here we go.. but that’s…. that…. is really good – if anything it’s slightly overexposed, that’s fantastic, that means I can drop it down to half power. Okay let’s see… yeah that looks fine, I think we’re okay, I think I can actually do this with a speed light. I didn’t think that was gonna happen, but having said that, that’s just a single shot, let’s see if they can keep up with a little group of pictures in fairly quick succession. So Charlotte you ready? Okay here we go. Now of course I could easily get my flash power down by getting rid of the softbox, but that would mean much harder light on Charlotte, and that’s not really a fair comparison to the monolight. Ah okay, right, we’ve hit a snag- it stopped firing, and I think that probably means it’s overheating, which isn’t that surprising considering what I’m asking it to do… but if you’re not going to push it that hard, that’s doing really well. Now I’m back in the studio I’ve checked the files and I’ve counted a total of 18 flashes before the speed lights stopped working, but having said that, the little speed light didn’t just suddenly stop…. in fact what happens is the recycle time becomes much much longer, to the point aswhere it is pretty much unusable and as a result if you’ve got lots of high-speed sync flash work to do on location – you’re better off with a mono light… all of this however is dependent on some variables… how far my flash was from the subject… the amount of ambient light that was there on the day, and of course my softbox would all affect the results… saying that if you’ve enjoyed this video… or you’ve got any questions, leave me a comment below. Click on the bell icon to get regular notifications of all the brand new videos right here on AdoramaTV… and of course click on that subscribe button… I’m Gavin Hoey – thanks for watching.

96 thoughts on “Speedlight vs Monolight on Location: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. Column Wheel says:

    First on location!! Go Adorama!!

  2. Waqas Ilyas says:

    Dislike button should be removed from Gavin's videos.

  3. Michael Kantor says:

    I would have never thought about a 25 mm for portraits. I enjoyed that aspect of the video as well. So it was a 2 for 1. Well done Gavin.

  4. Otรกvio L. Leite says:


  5. Pasquale Calvi says:

    Thx for sharing!!! Great video! Greetings from Switzerland

  6. wiratman gunza says:

    You'r is my master photography, tnks so mch gavin๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™

  7. Ramin Rokhsarzadeh says:

    Great educational video, thank you.

  8. Jojo Owens says:

    Thank you Mr Hoey for this very helpful video sir. I love the creative outcome from a monolight, but for now my wife and I are using Yongnuo YN560 IV's. Of course they're not HSS but they do extremely well. I cant afford a HSS strobe light at the moment but I have been wandering if I could produce images with my speedlites similar to those of a monolight. I am still learning speedlites, so this video along with many of your other videos has been very helpful. Thank you once again for your awesome videos, you have become my mentor, I love your creative work.

  9. George A says:

    Great video Gavin, but there are some of us that don't have flashes with HSS capabilities, could you make a video using ND filters in order to keep it under the flash sync speed? thank you

  10. chaim junger says:

    Youโ€™re the master teacher for many. Thank you so much for this. Greets from vienna.

  11. Chris Knight says:

    Hmm, a LiIon speedlight is surely more powerful (more watt-seconds) than a AA-battery-powered speedlight. Flashpoint/Godox lacks the WS rating of this head but I'm guessing in the 100WS range?

  12. MuertoInc says:

    Great video Gavin! Do you have a link to that "little" red wagon that was hidden under the plane? ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  13. Omar Gonzalez Photography says:

    Always great Gavin.

  14. John Z says:

    I'm amazed at how many different and creative topics Gavin covers. His enthusiasm and technical ability make for great tutorials. Thanks, Gavin and Adorama!

  15. Richard James Milne says:

    Great challenge! I was surprised as well. I have that same setup, so it good to know… if in a weight or size pinch, I could leave the Monolight at the studio.

  16. David Os says:

    So, that being said, can a speedlight handle bigger softboxes than the 38 inch one showed in the video or do we need a bulb-head + more power in order to fill the larger area?

  17. Robert Poirot says:

    Hi do you consider the ad200, ad360 ad180, to be speedlites or mono lights ? As using one of these as a speedlite changes te outcome.

  18. Sportserjeff says:

    Great video! For many hobbiests this is a great money saver.

  19. Lama Steve says:

    No one is using two speedlights from the same direction ?

  20. Bhalchandra Kapatkar says:

    No.1 photography. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

  21. Eric j says:

    Great video as always, could i do this using 2 or may be 3 speedlights in the same softbox, then in theory using less power on each flash so the recycle time would be quicker & would stop the flash from overheating?

  22. Ninad Surve says:

    1 number photographer aahes tu gavin………..

  23. Nicolas Racine says:

    I really thought the speedlight would have more trouble with the second test than with the third. That is surprising. What I like to do (I shoot speedlights only) is combine two or more speedlights. They each require less power, which means they're faster and more durable. It's easy to find speedlight bracket to accomodate up to 4 of them. It does not work for everything, of course, but it works for about 80% of the time, which is good enough for me.

  24. Alan Vandever says:

    Gavin always has an informative video. I was a little surprised at the speed light going belly up that fast. I use them with HSS all the time and have never run into that problem. I think he was probably shooting faster than I normally do.

  25. Pedro Courelas says:

    Conclusion: if your lens are 1.8 or faster, the AD200 is fine for everything.

  26. Steven Kamradt says:

    You could also use an ND filter instead of using HSS. Its a little easier on the flash equipment and you can get more power out of the flash if needed. Using ND filters can also take some of the guess work out of things as you can use your meter and then adjust based on the number of stops of ND you are applying. Just make sure you use a target to get the white balance correct, as some ND filters may add a slight color cast.

  27. Paul Bell says:

    I could watch your videos all day long mate ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜Š

  28. Mark Tom Photography says:

    Great video with surprising results. As far as the speedlight stopping, is that maybe just the battery overheating? Could you swap out another battery and keep shooting theoretically?

  29. Impostertot says:

    Excellent as always Gavin. Thank you very much for these comparison tests.

  30. Vivek Vishwakarma says:

    Thankyou somuch ๐Ÿค˜

  31. Miguel Gallegos says:

    Love your videos, looks like the speed light Can keep up with moonlight; but what about a sunny day?

  32. Barky Von Schnauzer says:

    I always come here for expert advise and quick tip lessons. I authorize a pay raise for Gav'. Good on 'ya Guv. Thanks

  33. An Vo says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this video. Thank you Gavin.

  34. Lawrence Biddle says:

    My favorite photographer. Great vid.

  35. HACKEROCK Channel says:

    Great test!!! Iโ€™m always concern if the light modifier size matters, I meant for the amount of outcome light. I have seen that the bigger modifier, the softest light…. so I own a Godox V860 speedlight, but Iโ€™m not sure if a 43โ€ modifier will be too big, and Iโ€™ll run out of light for full body shoots? What is your advice? Thanks

  36. Tony Green says:

    Great, understandable (even by me) video Gavin. I appreciate you using a flash meter that ordinary joes and jills might use. But I notice you using an Olympus EM5MK3, which makes me wonder how you swung that one because the common folk are still waiting for availability……

  37. Ed Blazejewski says:

    Great video, as always. I noticed you are using the EM5III, and the pictures look great. I'm really thinking about switching out my Canon 7DII and 24-70 USMII lens which feels like it weighs 200 pounds after lugging it along all day, to the EM5III. I know you switched from Canon and never looked back.

  38. Mr Dev says:

    Best Teacher by far๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  39. Justin says:

    I was surprised that little speedlight was able to hold it own pretty well.

  40. Jose Torres Gomez says:

    6:43 why light meters don't work with HSS?

  41. Karsten Bruun Qvist says:

    Amazing result, thanks!

  42. dunnymonster says:

    It's always a good day when a Gavin Hoey video pops up ๐Ÿ˜Š To alleviate the flash overheating and running out of steam you can use a speedlight that accepts an external battery pack. My Nikon SB 910 and 900's accept such a pack available from Godox ( PB960 ).๐Ÿ‘

  43. Jesse Martinez says:

    Da best

  44. Tysonator ! says:

    Another topic which shows just how easy it can done with Gavin's explanation. For me the use of speedlites is very relative as I do not own studio flash and I am unlikely to either. The cost and size. Speedlites are very portable, light and cheap to buy. A possible alternative is godox AD200 which is small and powerful. I am lookin to buy a used one or two !

  45. Roy Tarbox says:

    brilliant i always wondered what you can get out of a speedlight .

  46. brian mcfarlane says:


  47. Zach Burke says:

    Gavin, has your em-1 ii been relegated to video now that you're shooting with the 5 iii? Several of us would love to hear your thoughts on the soon releasing body.

  48. Patty Mattes says:

    Another great video! Thank you!!!

  49. D L Mobile says:

    With photometer in hand and a flash it is very easy to make beautiful images.

  50. Troy Durrance says:

    I always love your videos. You speak in plain English, you keep things simple and easy to understand. Thank you!!

  51. JhonArcher Lee says:

    He is the best teacher ever

  52. Peter Vari says:

    Those dislikes are from photographers with a lot of equipment and less results.

  53. Jeff Gagliano says:

    The only thing I didn't hear mentioned was…What meter mode he used. Spot. Center, Evaluate…It makes a difference

  54. Adam Bennett says:

    Great video Gavin, very informative, also lovely to see both Charlotte and yourself earlier today

  55. Anthony Knight says:

    For the second shot, I prefer the speedlight shot as well, but in all fairness, at f11 you're getting twice as much ambient light versus f16.

  56. Brian Kenneth Kondas says:

    Great video tutorial on comparing of strobe to a speed light on location. if youโ€™re shooting less than 20 shots in a session, then speed light is fine. Otherwise, if youโ€™re shooting more than 20 shots in a session, a strobe light is better. This is especially true at high-speed sync mode.

  57. Brian Kenneth Kondas says:

    I saw that beautiful reflection on the surface of the plane when you were shooting high speed sync at a shallow depth of F1.2. Beautiful shot. ๐Ÿ™‚

  58. John Cantrell says:

    That was very informative, thanks for sharing!

  59. Mike James says:

    Thanks, Gavin!

  60. LKFX Quality Media says:

    With HSS I mostly get by with Speedlights with magmod modifiers, right time of the day, and lots of lightroom edits ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜„not ideal but gotta work with what you have

  61. Y2How Photography says:

    Gavin makes it look easy. Love it!

  62. Vic Romรกn says:

    Great video Gavin!

  63. El Diablo says:

    Charlotte is a sex bomb… I am in love.

  64. Wanako Plays! says:

    For this shoot, were you using the internal diffusion layer inside of the ParaPop?

  65. Jason Armistead says:

    How were you triggering the flash/speedlight using the Sekonic meter ?

    The video description says itโ€™s an L-308X but at 4:50 itโ€™s clearly an L-308S

  66. Nikhil Saseendran Photography says:


  67. anafusion says:

    Great video, I'd like to see more comparisons. I know for me, my speedlight would last much MUCH longer. That's because I have Godox attached ๐Ÿ˜‰

  68. TravelLove says:

    It worked because it was cloudy. For sun, it won't work.

  69. John Reynolds says:

    Hello what light stand are you using?

  70. Gary Williamson says:

    Fantastic as Usual Gavin and really useful information. Keep up all the excellent work

  71. Manu Ali says:

    Sunset photoshoot make a video

  72. Hillary Is Evil says:

    Very interesting. Great to see the speed light stop working and an explanation of why. Thank you Gavin!

  73. Ava Vikman says:

    Try this again on a sunny day around mid-day April-August. That's where you'll really need the monolight

  74. Brendan Lawlor says:

    Another really explanatory tutorial Gavin. Thanks

  75. Leonides Quiason says:

    Thank you for making this video. Sure, speedlights has a plenty of limitations but it can do a lot more than what most you tube photographers will care to tell us.

  76. TeddyCavachon says:

    Speedlights donโ€™t fare as well in โ€œSunny 16โ€ ambient lighting and require a different strategy: use the direct sun as back rim light exposing to keep the sunlit clothing and skin below clipping, then use two flashes in a key-over-fill configuration on the face.

  77. Kirsty Hepworth says:

    this video is awesome and amazing #adoramamatakeandmake

  78. Rosina Caputi says:

    So 1/2 power on a 600w monlight gives the same reading as 1/1 power on a speedlight and 1/4 power in HSS from a monolight is about equal to 1/2 power in HSS from a speedlight. Therefore the speedlight is one stop less powerfull than the monolight at about 300w.

  79. tyvek05 says:

    why in the world would you be using the EM-5 when you could be usng the EM-1???? if you were an amatuer it would be understandable, but since your a pro, it makes not sense at all.

  80. bennozoid says:

    Gavinโ€™s a GREAT presenter!!!!!

  81. dave thompson says:

    very enjoyable and informative…..

  82. Patrick Smyth says:

    Great video. Since I have both, Iโ€™m usually carrying both but youโ€™ve shown me the borderline. Likely would not have gone through the trials and the speedlite did better than I expected. I may be able to travel lighter than I thought!

    This is why you are the best! Best to Sam!

  83. Jorge says:

    Great tutorial Gavin. Thank you.

  84. Nelson Farmer says:

    I love your video's Gavin.

  85. David Fehrman says:

    I do not (yet) own a monolight, instead am using Flashpoint 685's with a 960 battery. I'm wondering if that will temporarily solve the recycle time issue when using high speed sync with the speed light (until the more powerful flash is purchased)? Seems like some practice and testing is in order. Very useful video, Mr. Hoey! Thanks.

  86. Alan Plummer says:

    Awesome topic & presentation! Thanks

  87. Marc Labro says:

    super tuto !
    should latest setup work with D750+24-70 F/2.8+sb900 in high sync (and mini tt1 + flextt5 pocket wizard ?). d750+PWizard can only use 1/250s HS so 1/4000th is 4 stops, hard to cover with such softbox at 2m distance isn't it ? is your speedlight different from a sb900 ?

  88. dzeng says:

    Nice pictures! How's the EM5iii working out for you? Do you prefer it over the em1ii?

  89. Bharani Nath says:

    Gavin Hoey is simply superb. Lots of energy.

  90. GameSnippetsUK says:

    I feel stupid for not knowing remotely triggered lights were a thing! That is awesome! I do love the portability of the flash gun softbox setups but that is still very very cool

  91. Thrifting Sifting says:

    I highly recommend the speed light, just add an external battery pack with rechargeable batteries. Less weight to carry and move around in locations.

  92. clark conway says:

    Exactly the video I have been looking for. Answered all my questions about metering ambient light outdoors with a meter and using HSS. Thanks Gavin!

  93. Nissan Bakish says:

    Try to over power the sun here in ISRAEL… the conditions are so different than your cloudy country. Sometimes AD600 isn't enough… Any way thnx for great video as usual !!

  94. Lyndon Smith says:

    Great vid as always Gavin! How much diffusion was on that softbox? 1 or 2 layers?

  95. Kamukix says:

    Olympus equipment YAAAAAAAAAAAAY! Also nice video showing multiple scenarios and compromises between the two setups. ๐Ÿ‘

  96. glennskitchen says:

    IMO the best explanation/demonstration of HSS in a YT video I've seen.

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