We Tried It: Kim K's $50 Secret To The Perfect Selfie

Photo: Courtesy Lumee.
For the past few weeks, selfie extraordinaire Kim K has been showing off something new in her images. Nope, not a new lipstick hue or haircut, she's touting an iPhone case that gives her "perfectly lit" photos.

The case in question is the LuMee iPhone Case. It costs $50-$60 (depending on your phone model), with bright, warm LEDs lining the front, just outside the right and left edges of your iPhone. Without the lights on, one observer told me it was the weirdest looking case they'd ever seen. With the lights on, it resembles a small, portable Hollywood-style makeup mirror. It's a thick case, around the size of a Mophie charging case or one of those LifeProof waterproof cases, and it charges via micro USB.

We took the now Insta-famous LuMee case for a test ride on an iPhone 6s to see how well it really works. We compared its results to that of a selfie taken with no flash at all, and with a selfie shot with the 6s' front facing Retina Flash feature.

Did this iPhone case upgrade our selfies to Kim K levels? Read on for the results of our highly scientific selfie experiment.

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This piece originally ran January 27, 2016.
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Photos: Courtesy Christina Bonnington.
Original - Backlit
Sunshine pouring in from a window behind yourself is not an optimal selfie lighting situation. With no editing or flash used, the sunlight casts a bright halo on the left side of my generally dark face. On the plus side: this lighting scenario minimizes the detail of my skin quality.
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Retina Flash - Backlit
In this shot, we switch on the iPhone 6s' front facing Retina Flash. The overall image is cooler in tone and harsher than the original. It reveals a lot more detail of my hair and face — you can see my freckles, a little bit of forehead wrinkle (settle down, eyebrows), and more pinks in my skin. If I weren't posting this For Science, I'd probably run a light Instagram filter such as Slumber or Mayfair to warm things up.
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LuMee Case - Backlit
Holy spray tan, Batman, I've turned orange! While the LuMee case's light overpowers the effect of the sunlight behind me, it also transformed my face into a mild shade of Oompa Loompa.

(Luckily, the case actually has a built-in dimming feature — if I hold down the button that switches the lights on, I can adjust its brightness to a less extreme level.)
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Original - Sidelit
In this shot, the sun brightened half my face and left the other half in shadows. You can see some of my freckles; my hair color looks true to its real-life hue. My eyebrow crease and forehead creases are there in all their glory, but my dimple is obscured on the shadow-side.
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Retina Flash - Sidelit
Here, the Retina Flash does a good job of neutralizing and evening my skin tone. It looks like I have a light layer of base or powder over my skin. But, my hair looks slightly more dull and less golden than it does in the real world. The forehead wrinkles are neutralized (or I chillaxed my brows in this shot), and you can see the dimple on the right side of my face now. Overall, it's a definite improvement upon the original.
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LuMee Case - Sidelit
Again, the LuMee case warms things right back up, casting my skin in a pinky-orange glow. With a filter on top, this image wouldn't be too bad — it did nicely soften my forehead creases.
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Original - Artificial Lighting
Because you're probably tired of my face by now, here we also present my cat. With no flash, this shot ended up slightly blurry (a problem I noticed with the 6s' front facing camera due to its higher pixel count than earlier models). The cat is not bothered by the phone or the selfie.
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Retina Flash - Artificial Lighting
The addition of the Retina Flash did not change much about the quality of the photo. The photo is much sharper, but the tonality is the same (very pink, very warm). Due to the timing or the color tone of the Retina Flash, my wearing glasses doesn't pose an issue in this lighting situation.
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LuMee Case - Artificial Lighting
Artificial lighting is where the LuMee case shines. It minimized the blemishes on my face, evened my skin tone, and reduced some of the pink from the other two shots. Unfortunately (but not unsurprisingly), the case's lights reflected in my glasses. If you're a frequent glasses wearer, this isn't the selfie case of your dreams.

The cat did not like the LuMee case one bit.
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Original - Low Light
In a medium dark room, with no flash, the picture is completely unusable.
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Retina Flash - Low Light
When you add the Retina Flash, you can actually see my face, which is a plus. However, the colors are dull and washed out.
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LuMee Case - Low Light
With the case illuminating my face, you'd never know this was taken in a dark room. My hair is luminous! Like all the shots from the LuMee, it's definitely on the warm side, but with a little photo editing, this would be the Instagram-worthy photo over the other two options.
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Photo: Kim Kardashian/Instagram.
The Verdict?
The LuMee case casts a strong, warm light on your face. In natural light, this can be overpowering if you don't dim the lights slightly — depending on your skin tone, it may make you appear overly orange. It doesn't play well with glasses (take off those stunna shades), and selfies with cats are out of the question, unless you don't mind a shoulder full of claw.

However, in situations with cooler-toned artificial lighting, the LuMee case does an excellent job of balancing out the blues and pinks. And in situations with low or virtually no light, it's a lifesaver — you'd never know the photo was taken in darkness.

If your selfies are usually indoors, in your bathroom, or in dimly lit bars, the case could seriously up your selfie game. At the least, it definitely eliminates that winter pallor we all have going on right now.
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