Lume Cube Light Shaping Tools: A Review

It is no secret to frequent readers of Toy Photographers that we are big fans of Lume Cube lights.  Their size and power are well suited for toy photography.  Recently Lume Cube has sent us some new attachments to review.

Those attachments are:

You can purchase each individually if you wish, however you will need a Light-House adapter, or the modification frame to use the attachment.  Or you can get all three in a convenient bundle for $32 USD.

The following is a review of these new attachments.

Note:  Lume Cube did provide us with evaluation units, with the intent that we would evaluate them honestly.  All of the opinions expressed below are the opinions of Toy Photographers and not influenced by Lume Cube.

Dave DeBaeremaeker

I must say I was fascinated with Lume Cube lights the moment I read my first article on them.  When I finally got my hands on a Lume Cube light I immediately fell in love with it.  It is really the perfect size and power for toy photography.  However there were always a few things I found lacking. The first thing is that the Light House housing was annoying to work with, and at $49.99 USD, way to expensive for what it is. The second is that, while there were many attachments for modifying the light, and widening the light beam, there were no real good ways to shape the light.

This means that all the light that comes from the Lume Cube comes out in a cone shape.  If one needs something other then a cone of light for a shot, the Lume Cube becomes less useful.  So I was exciting when I found out they were releasing these handy light shaping attachments.

Modification Frame

Previously to use attachments on a Lume Cube required the use of a cage known as a Light-House.  I always found the Light-House to be overbearing, annoying, and at $49.99, over priced.  The new Modificaton Frame is used to add attachments, but instead of wrapping around the Lume Cube like a cage, it simply pressure-fits onto the front of the cube.  However it allows the use of all attachments.  It is also significantly cheaper.

Snoots

A snoot is simply a cone that attaches to a light, and gets narrower as it goes.  Its purpose is to turn a wider light into a smaller more focused light beam.  The Lume Cube snoot is built the same way they are built for larger light systems.  The snoot reduces the size of the light from 2 inches in diameter to approx. 3/4 of an inch. My only complaint is that I wish it had an option to narrow the light further.  Often when shooting LEGO I want a beam of light the rough size of the diameter of a stud.

Barn Doors

Barn Doors, on the other hand, are a series of panels than sit on the side of the Lume Cube and can be moved in and out.  This allows the light to be blocked selectively on each side, shaping the light as needed.  These barn doors work exactly as one expects barn doors to work.

Despite being made from plastic, they are quite rugged.  I pulled and yanked on the doors quite a lot, and they stayed firm.  I am quite confident they will handle normal wear and tear quite well.

The hinges (that look a lot like the hooks and rods used by LEGO) are easy to move,  can be repositioned in any way, and once moved they stay put.

To put the barn doors to a test, I created the following image with two Lume Cubes, one in front, one behind with a blue gel.  I used the barn doors to control the light onto only Tony’s face in the front, and to keep the blue light in the back from spilling all over the figure.

Iron Man portrait
Portrait of Iron Man taken with two Lume Cubes (one for the face, one for the background) and the barn doors attachments.

So my personal conclusion is that these tools are all well worth the money, and will serve you well.  After having played with them for a few days I am thrilled to have them in my arsenal of light tools, and am looking froward to using them for years to come.

Shelly

It doesn’t matter if you’re photographing outdoors or indoors you’re essentially photographing light. When you’re outdoors you usually have one main light source – the sun. With one light you are essentially bending, bouncing or modifying the light. You can make choices, like what time of day you’re photographing, which can effect the outcome, but mostly you are at the mercy of the weather and the sun god. Alternatively you can photograph indoors where you have complete control over the light; the direction, the intensity, the color, etc…

With barn doors and snoots now available for the LumeCube, your ability to control the lighting in your studio just got a whole lot easier.

Snoots

As Dave mentioned above, a snoot simply narrows the bean of light into a hard edged circle. The effect is often dramatic and great for creating noir style photos or unique portraits. You certainly don’t need a $10 attachment to create this effect. You can also form matte black Photofoil into shapes to direct and bend your light. But I have to admit snapping a snoot into place makes this process a lot easier.

Even a photo quickly snapped on my mobile device looks great using the new snoot accessories!

More fun with snoots!

Barn doors

Barn doors are simply another device designed to help you control your lights. Unlike snoots, which give you light with a hard and defined edge. barn doors give a soft edge to the light. They give you more options on how much you modify your light. And they will also help eliminate light spilling into areas of your photo that you don’t want it. Basically the more control you have over your lights, the better you’ll be able to realize your vision.

I think for studio photography barn doors are an essential add-on for your studio set up because they help you quickly modify your light. Rather than having the light spill all over your scene, or creating a makeshift light modifier, you can adjust your barn doors until you have the light exactly where you want it.

Snoots outdoors

Honestly I had only thought that I would find these additional tools useful for studio photography. But I adore the snoot for helping to solve a frequent problem I have photographing outdoors. I enjoy photographing my subjects in the low light of both sunrise AND sunset  (contrary to what I may have said in an earlier post). I love the quality of the light at this time of day. But as you all know, when you put your light behind your subject you’re going to get a silhouette. I can use a bounce card to mitigate this effect to some extent, but the snoot on a powerful light source like the Lume Cube solves this problem even better.

With a strong beam of light directed right at the main subject I can maintain the beauty of the light and illuminate only the subject. This inexpensive little adaptor solves my problem in a neat and convenient package. With the help of a Lume Cube and a snoot I nailed this photo in only a couple of takes. Rather than fussing with a bounce card and the fast changing sunrise, I can concentrate on the position of the figures.

Conclusion

If you’ve already invested in a couple of Lume Cubes I recommend adding the snoot and barn doors to your kit. They make the lights infinitely more versatile and give you more options to bend and modify your lighting. In fact I feel that these lights make more sense with these accessories. Sure color filters and diffusers where already offered, but they simply acted as fill lights and color correctors. Now with these attachments I feel like I have a true studio set up for my macro photos. I look forward to continuing to explore lighting with these new tool.

Thank you Lume Cube for your generosity in sending these new tools and continuing to support the Toy Photographers Blog. 

James Garcia

Since reviewing the Lume Cube last year, it has become a staple in my toy photography kit, and I now own two of them. Whether I’m using them to replace my studio lighting, in conjunction with umbrella lights, to add light to my outdoor setups, or to create lens flares, I always have at least one on hand. So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that the fine folks at Lume Cube were adding light shaping tools to their catalog.

To be honest, I didn’t know how welcome these new tools would be until I received them. Snoots and barn doors aren’t something I would have ever considered adding to my kit, but after experimenting with them over the weekend I can’t wait to test their limits and see what I can do with them.

Modification Frame

Lume Cube Modification Frame
New (left) vs Old (right)

As Dave mentioned above, the Modification Frame is the new, sleek replacement for the Light-House cage, and I couldn’t be happier with the upgrade. Besides the obvious design and aesthetic improvement, the frame itself does a much better job of holding diffusers, color filters, and the new barn door and snoot attachments in place. The magnets feel stronger, and it’s no longer necessary to perfectly line up the top of the attachments with the top of the frame. That means no more fumbling with my color filters, trying to get them to align and snap securely into place.

Barn Doors

I was blown away by the design of the barn doors, specifically with how sturdy they feel. They open and close smoothly, but stay firmly in place. I’d never used barn doors before, but had a lot of fun experimenting with them. I love that I can now control how much light spills into parts of an image simply by opening or closing the sides. For fun, I tried creating in-camera lighting effects that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve with the Lume Cube on its own.

Snoot

Despite being fun to say, Snoots are also something I wouldn’t have thought to add to my lighting kit. I’ll admit that I’ve never quite considered what to do with a hard circle of light, so I spent a lot of time scratching my head, thinking of an interesting test.

This photo employs a snoot, pointed straight down at the Leia minifigure. The light beam from R2 was created in Photoshop

Besides creating a spotlight in my photos, I also learned that I could use a snoot to illuminate small portions of an image, similar to what you can do with the barn doors.

In the shot above I was able to use a snoot to illuminate only the diamond, but my minifigure kept disappearing into the shadows. So, I put barn doors on my second Lume Cube and created a small box of light directly behind her, separating her from the background.

Conclusion

If you already own a Lume Cube, these new attachments are a no-brainer and will make a fine addition to your kit! I didn’t know I needed them until they were in my hands, and I can’t wait to keep experimenting with the new possibilities they present. I recently found this great tutorial on using barn doors to shape light for a variety of moods, and think I’ll give some of these techniques a shot. Thanks to our friends at Lume Cube for sending these along and continuing to support the blog!

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12 Comments

  1. Tony Frattle

    Excellent review! I am even more excited for my shipment to arrive. I haven’t used these lights yet but I felt they would be a very welcome accessory to my lighting setup, especially now that the barn door and snoot modifiers exist for it. My light wands work wonderfully but there’s an extra level of dimension I cannot easily get with those large lights.

  2. Janan Lee

    Like Joseph Cowlishaw, I use the LitraTorch but there aren’t the barn doors and snoot accessories for it unlike the Lume. Seriously considering it especially since I’ve been fussing around a bit to shape the light with indoor shoots recently. Thanks Dave, Shelly and James for sharing your honest opinions and wonderfully lit by Lume images.

    • I’ve never used a LitraTorch, but they appear to be similar sized to a Lume Cube. I wonder if one could MacGuyver a way to use Lume Cube accessories on a LitraTorch.

      Light doesn’t care about how a modifier is attached, so even some gaffer tape would likely get the job done.

    • Thanks Janan! Like Dave, I immediately thought that something like gaffer tape might be able to solve that problem. But this is such a cool tool that I can’t imagine that LitraTorch would wait long to make their own version.

  3. Mary Wardell

    When I first heard of the Lume Cube I assumed it was just a cool toy for the I-phone world but you guys convinced me to try one and I love it. Now you’ve convinced me to buy these new attachements as soon as the budget allows. Thanks for the article & your reviews!

  4. Astrid

    I own a litratorch and wanted to buy another. This post causes me to definitely buy a LumeCube. These accessories are great! Thank you very much for the information and matching pictures!

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