Monolights are studio flash units that are usually used by pros who have taken their lighting work to a new level. Photographers usually start out their lighting journey with speedlites, otherwise known as ‘hot shoe’ flashes.
These portable lights can be used off and on the camera, with affordable varieties widely available such as the Li-ION580II Manual Speedlite. Featuring a lithium-ion battery that can power through 650 shots and a built-in receiver allowing remote control of the flash power settings, this speedlight is perfect for wedding shoots, advertising, and location shoots.
However, there are a lot of reasons that you should upgrade to a monolight. Professional shoots often require more flash power, a faster recycling time, speedier positioning with a modelling light, and greater flexibility regarding modifiers and use of access.
We’d recommend the CITI600 Manual Battery Powered Flash as a revolutionary portable moonlight featuring a rechargeable battery and IGBT technology that can help photographers achieve super-fast recycling times and shorter durations for flashes.
Here’s all you need to know to make use of your moonlight!
Understand Guide Number vs. Watt Seconds
Monolights are almost always more powerful than speedlights. However, different shoots require different levels of power. Speedlights have a guide number that dictates the power rating—the exposure reading at a certain distance away from the flash. Speedlights also have their own built-in diffuser and reflector.
Monolights are completely unmodified; they’re just a bright light. You can completely customize the kind of reflectors and modifiers that you use to affect the guide number. Hence, the power of monolights is measured in watt per seconds—the amount of energy one unit pushes through its bulb. Ratings usually start around 100WS, with the CITI600 Manual Battery Powered Flash having a rating of 600WS, making it super powerful.
Plug-in Operation and Recycle Time
Plug-in operation is good for getting consistent power from electrical outlets, but it’s not always the most convenient thing. Battery-powered monolights are perfect for outdoor shoots or studios where there are young children who may run around and trip.
Monolights have amazingly short recycle times—the time taken between two full power flash bursts. Models don’t want to stand in the same position for long periods of time, making these lights better for faster photoshoots.
The LUMI 200 II 600Ws Three Head Kit with Trigger has a recycle time of just over 1 second, allowing users to take multiple shots in a shorter period of time. This affordable moonlight kit is perfect for home studios and is easy for amateurs to set up. Higher-end lights can be even faster, cutting down the recycle time to a fourth of a second.
Monolights have a built-in modelling light—the second bulb that’s present on the unit in the centre of the circular flash tube. It’s in the same position as where the flash would be and provides a continuous stream of light that stays on even if the flash isn’t fired.
This can help you position the lights and get a better idea of how the light will fall on your subjects, which is especially helpful in tricky setups. High-end speedlights may also feature modelling functions, but they’re more difficult to use since they need a button to be held down at all times to stay on.
Get Kitted Out!
Monolights are amazing, but their singular major downside is that they’re not available for use straight out of the box. They need multiple accessories to go over their standard mounting systems and built-in umbrella slots. You can get the KINOII 600+ Four Head Photography Kit as a solution to this issue, featuring boom stands, light stands, softboxes, and a diffuser so that you have everything that you could possibly need for a large photoshoot.
Monolights can make use of thousands of modifiers, such as:
This is a type of restrictor that surrounds the light using four moveable flaps that can be used to block the light from hitting undesired objects in the scene.
Grids are available in many different degrees and serve as another form of restrictors. Smaller degree numbers focus the light produced from the moonlight, and vice versa.
Snoots are restrictors that work as a funnel for the light. They’re used to create tiny, focused pools of bright light.
These coloured filters change the colour of the light that leaves the moonlight. This Honeycomb Grid with Colour Gel Filter Pack is an excellent choice for changing the mood of your image with a variety of colours.
Umbrellas are often used as a traditional way of softening harsh lighting. The light bounces off the umbrella, diffusing it and making the light source appear softer and larger. You can find these in many sizes according to your requirements.
Softboxes are a relatively newer method of softening the light. They diffuse it by bouncing it around before it passes through a piece of large, white, synthetic fabric. Photographers can have much more control over the light when using softboxes when compared to umbrellas.
You don’t have to worry about dumping your flash when it comes to speedlights, but monolights are a different story. When you change the flash power and take another photo, the first picture will retain the power from before, almost like it has a memory.
Press the button labelled ‘test’ if you’ve made any changes to the flash power before taking the next picture. However, some monolights come with an auto-dump function, so you won’t have to worry about this.
Overall, using monolights is not too difficult, you just need to have a proper understanding of the accessories required to make them work in the way you want. The setup is fairy straightforward, and adjusting the lights is extremely easy.
Take a look at our monolight collection!
EssentialPhoto has a wide range of monolights and kits in a variety of watt seconds to cater to all of your photography needs! Our high quality products come in wired and battery-powered varieties, so pick what you think would work best for you.