I guess it’s a sign of the times, but I get sent far more LED lights to test than any other light…. even though I never personally use LEDs.
When I say I don’t use LED lights, it’s not because I have a dislike for them, but for me, they have limitations that I struggle to deal with when I shoot what I shoot. If you’re after some affordable continuous light for video work that looks natural and emulates everyday lighting, then LEDs are your first and smartest choice. But for what I do, which is often very controlled and saturated colour work that is anything but natural, I’m going to stick to the control and power of flash for now.
I mention this as I received these Lumee LED lights a few weeks ago and I couldnt really think how I could use them in my work. As a result they sat in my lighting kit as a sort of ‘just in case’ situation. After all, they take up almost zero room and weigh practically nothing so why not have them with me. But recently it dawned on me that they may have additional uses that I’d previously overlooked.
Full disclosure: I was sent these LED lights to play with by Spiffy gear. I have no affiliation with them and I am not being paid to review or endorse these products, nor will I get any commission from future sales of this product.
What are they?
So before we get into any impressions, let’s quickly look at what they are. After all, there are a trillion and one LED lights already on the market, what’s different about these?
Firstly, (as I previously mentioned), they are very lightweight and slim so can be brought almost anywhere. Once out of the box you’ll see that they are about 9 inches long and 1 inch wide. Running along the centre of them we have the LED strip and at one end we have some buttons.
I was sent both the ‘RGB Light’ and the ‘Bi-Colour Light’. They look the same, but the RGB is able to produce 15 colours ranging from reds, blues, greens, oranges, purples etc. The Bi-Colour model is able to produce 8 tones along the Kelvin scale ranging from 2700K up to 6000K.
Take a look below at the colour options available from each of these lights via the mini-manual provided.
At the base of each of the lights are the controls. They each have three buttons and they turn the LED strips on, change colour, cycle the effects etc.
Take a look at the example shots below that shows the LED buttons and the controls via the mini-instructions.
One of the other key features these LED lights have is their ability to wrap into a bracelet shape so they can be attached to poles and bars without the need for additional support. Of course you could also wear these if were looking something in the dark and needed your hands free too.
Lastly, these are incredibly lightweight and this is in part due to the fact that they are powered by a small onboard battery. These micro batteries can power the LED bracelets at max power for one hour before they need recharging. This can be done via a USB cable adapter that they come supplied with.
Charging both of these from flat to full via my laptop took less than an hour.
Both of these bracelets also have magnets in the ends of them (as well as a hole to hook on to things). This is useful if you just want to magnet them to a metal surfaces. These magnets are not so strong as to be a worry around other electronic kit, but strong enough to easily hold them in place on vertical flat surfaces. Each pack also contains several metal discs that you can use in conjunction with the magnets to stick them to any surface if required.
First impression were very good. The product is well packaged and easily understood via the simple instructions. The material feels robust, well made and I expect they will last a long time before needing to be replaced.
My next statement is difficult to quantify, but the LED light themselves produce a very clean and crisp light. All of the colours look great and on the Bi-Colour the Kelvin colours look legit and not simply ‘blue’ and ‘orange’ LEDs. The RGB colours are also very clean and even the mid-colours like yellow and purple look vibrant and not simply watered down versions of red or blue respectively. Like I said this is hard to justify with my words alone, but the Spiffy website quotes these LEDs as having a 95 CRI. If you’re not aware, CRI stands for Colour Rendering Index. Essentially the closer the CRI of the LED light to 100, the closer the light is ‘true’ colour. I’m a little hesitant on this index as I have no idea how the lighting industry works out what the ‘true’ colour of something is… but I digress.
Essentially these LEDs have an industry rating of 95 (out of 100) which goes a long way to explain why the light looks so clean and crisp. I’d have zero qualms about using these in any of my images alongside any other light.
One thing that will make these little LED lights stand out from some other cheaper models is their lighting features or ‘effects’. All of these effects can accessed by simply holding a button and closing through to the effect you want easily and quickly.
Both the Bi-Colour and the RGB versions have LED effects and they range from:
- Red Carpet
on the Bi-Colour and the RGB includes:
Take a look at the video below as I cycle through effects on both the Bi-Colour LED and RGB LED.
Okay so we’ve established this is a well-made product that has the ability to produce some very clean light, but what are they for? Well first and foremost they are for video. Place these almost anywhere to add a kick of light. It’s as simple as that. The brightness of these little things is deceptive and although the brightness of the RGB version will vary dependant on the colour used, the Bi-Colour LED provided a reading of f2.8, 1/60th at ISO 400 from 12 inches away. As I mentioned, this light will operate at that max brightness for an hour too.
The size and shape of them is also ideal for placing on set too. Light the keys of a piano, curled up and placed in a lamp housing to replicate candle light, above characters whilst they are in a car. These LED bracelets are really going to work well in those super-awkward spots where literally no other light can operate.
But you don’t shoot video Jake?
This is very true and this is also the reason I’ve been sat on these for weeks and not used them. But these LED lights could also serve as very creative light-painting tools…
For those unaware, I like to shoot long exposure portrait images and during those long exposure shots I will often wave about a constant light source to get some very cool and interesting in-camera effects. If you’re interested in seeing some of the light painting tools I’ve used in the past to create these looks then take a look here 5 Professional and DIY Light Painting Tools For You to Try.
By using some of those constant light sources in conjunction with flash, you are able to flash the subject to get a crisp image, but with the shutter still open you are then able to ‘paint’ around the model in real time to create some truly unique effects.
You should start to see how these long exposure shots take form by looking at the image of the model included here. This is actually a 10 second exposure in a dark room. The flash illuminates the subject and then we paint around the subject.
So from those light painting images and techniques I’ve shared, you should now start to see how these Lumee LED wands have huge potential for long exposure shots.
Here’s some example images of how some of the Lumee coloured light effects turned out.
All of the image below were taken with a 6-10 second exposure at f11 and ISO 100.
In these images you can see the LED lighting effects and how they look during the period of 6-10 seconds in a single frame. Many of RGB effects that cycled through its colours over time looks incredible and I love just how smooth it appears. Many inferior LEDs will blink very rapidly. This is indiscernible by the naked eye normally, but when you use them in long exposure images the stuttering of the light is very noticeable and rarely looks good.
In the images you can also see the individual LEDs as they appear like lines. I knew this would happen and I initially thought I wouldn’t like the effect, but as it turns out, I actually really like it. If you wanted to remove that look of the individual lines, simply use a ‘diffusion gel’ over the LED wand itself and it will blur the individual colours into one. Take a look at the shots below to see what I mean.
Overall this is a well made product that produces superior results. If you shoot a lot of video and have to shoot in awkward or small locations, these deserve some serious consideration. Like I said, the quality of the light being produced by these LEDs is not to be dismissed and their light could easily be used to augment or accent other high quality LED devices too.
Another use for them is of course long exposure photography and light painting like I’ve shown you above. I was very impressed by how bright these were for light painting as I like to add flash to my long exposure portraits and having a very bright light painting tool gives me so many more option when it comes to constructing my shot. I am certainly looking forward to playing with these further to try and add something a little more unique than a single colour.
The only downsides to these are to be expected given their size, but charging them can be a pain. Leave them charged and united in your bag, and they will lose their charge over time. This is normal of course and this will apply to any charged product. But when it comes to using them, the only option you now have is to plug them into a USB device and wait an hour. Sadly, this could lead to them not being ready when you most need them.
My only other ‘want’ for these LED lights would be to have the option to adjust the brightness of the ‘effects’. As it stands, the effects only play at the brightest power which in some situations was too powerful for what I was using them for. To be fair, I simply wrapped a Neutral Density gel around the light and it was fine, but it’s worth knowing it can’t be adjusted via the light itself.
These LED lights aren’t cheap at $45 a pop, but then the brightness, the beautifully clean and crisp colours and colour effect features is what sets these Lumee LED lights apart from its cheaper counterparts.
For more info, check the website over at Spiffy Gear here LUMEE
About the Author
Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer who specializes in keeping the skill in the camera, not just on the screen. Jake currently has a workshop available on how to use Gels on location more effectively. For more of his work and tutorials, check out his website. Don’t forget to like his Facebook page, follow him on Instagram and sign up to the Jake Hicks Photography newsletter to receive Jake’s free Top Ten Studio Lighting Tips and Techniques PDF. This article was also published here and shared with permission.