It’s about the Lighting not the Light

November 12th, 2015

Richard Gill

Any photographer worth his salt knows a lot about light.  Everyday they are working with it, figuring out the best exposure, making sure the white balance is correct, checking their highlights aren’t blown out.  However not many know much about lighting.
However, not many know much about lighting.  They will certainly understand that different lighting technologies will affect the white balance setting on their camera, but they probably don’t understand all the important characteristics that are taken into consideration when designing a new lighting scheme or product.  Glare, subtle differences in colour rendering index (CRI), delivered lumens and uniformity may be critical to your lighting project, but these are terms that a photographer may not be familiar with.

The result is that many lighting companies’ marketing photos show brightly lit spaces and the actual luminaire is a bright ‘sunburst of light’ and impossible to see.  The photographer has attempted to make it look well lit and demonstrate how the lighting has improved the scene being photographed, but as a lighting manufacturer or designer you will want to show a number of additional features in addition to a well illuminated room.  You will want to show the aesthetics of the luminaire, perhaps that there is little or no glare and how well colours are reproduced under the artificial light.

LED lighting showing a lot of glare as seen is exposed to show that the building is well lit

LED lighting showing a lot of glare as the scene is exposed to show that the building is well lit

Lighting is a challenging subject to photograph because the camera operates in a different way to a human eye.  The iris of the human eye is constantly adapting to the lighting conditions, so when you look at the fixtures your iris reduces the amount of light hitting the retina.  Then when you look down towards a darker area it will open up again to let in more light.  The iris of the camera on the other hand is fixed at whatever aperture the photographer chooses, resulting in some areas being over exposed and others being underexposed.

Similarly when  there are several different light sources with different colour temperatures, the eye is very good at detecting these differences and noticing the subtle changes in colour.  For a camera it is more difficult. The accurate representation of colours is largely determined by the white balance setting.  Cameras are calibrated to a standard  mid-grey and they  assume that most photographs have an average scene colour that is grey.  Consequently a scene containing a lot of white or alternatively a lot of black will result in the camera sensor reproducing the colours inaccurately.

Comparison between HID and LED lighting

Comparison between HID and LED lighting showing different CCT’s

At Great Impressions we have more than 20 years of experience in the lighting industry so will quickly understand the key points you want to emphasise when you brief us to photograph your next project.  We can use a number of techniques to capture the key features.
For example, we use a grey card to calibrate the camera on site to the exact white balance setting that matches the average CCT of the scene.  We can blend multiple exposures of the same scene so  that the fixtures and the scene being illuminated are correctly exposed.
Grey card being used for calibration of white balance

Grey card being used for calibration of white balance

Don’t leave your marketing photos to chance. They showcase your skill as a lighting company and need to present all the best features of your designs.  Please give us a call on 07557 780336 if you have a project that you would like photographing. And  don’t forget that taking “before shots” of a retrofit or refurbishment installation will help you to build a portfolio for future case studies.