Picture lights are a classic way to highlight your favourite painting or picture. In this case, the light is not the focal point but instead is used to highlight another object in the room. This is called task lighting, and its purpose is to ensure your art piece receives more illumination than its background.
Just because the picture lamp is not intended to be the main point of attention, that does not make its design unimportant. Indeed, picture lights have one of the most intriguing forms of any lamp type in the industry.
This article will explain how picture lamps can be the perfect lighting solution for many a location – not just art galleries!
The main purposes of a picture light
A picture light needs to provide a focused beam of illumination on an art piece (or ‘object of interest’) which greatly exceeds that of its background. This brings the art piece into focus, so observers can appreciate it without any distractions.
While the ‘object of interest’ it illuminates gets most of the attention, the picture lamp itself is on display too. Given that it is often used in environments such as museums and art galleries, this should mean they have an elegant design that complements fine establishments.
No-one cares very much about the appearance of an industrial high bay light as they are seen from a great distance in a working environment. Picture lamps will be seen up close and personal.
This is why Astro Lighting have employed some of the best designers in the world to compose their light designs; they have always cared deeply about the architecture of their products.
It is important that you double-check to see that the size and appearance of the lamps do not contrast from the art pieces. Recessed luminaires are ideal for this purpose as they are discreet.
Not all picture lamps manage to do this job effectively, unfortunately. Some picture lights just produce a ‘hot spot’ of illumination and leave the areas next to the borders dim. This means the viewer is given an incomplete view of the artwork: which is unacceptable and means the light is not serving its purpose.
Picture lights are not exclusively made for pictures. They can be used to highlight any object to add interest and drama – or in some cases for pure convenience or mood lighting. For instance, in a dark room such as cinema theatres, they are perfect for illuminating handrails so people do not trip over.
Technical aspects to think about when choosing a picture lamp
Colour rendering should be a priority for you when choosing a picture lamp. This is because you will want the colours from the object on display to be faithfully depicted for viewers.
Picture lamps should have a CRI rating of 80 if they are to fulfil their function properly. For example, the Goya 460 LED picture lamp from Astro has a CRI of 80, whilst also boasting useful functions such as an adjustable head which can be rotated 90 degrees.
Many picture lights are individually dimmable. This is useful where you have pale and dark pictures adjacent to each other and you want them to appear equally bright. This means the comparative brightness of the pictures can always be kept in balance.
A fine example of dimmable picture lamps can be found in Astro’s Renoir range. They come in widths of 350mm to 680mm and provide a pleasant warm white light.
Another factor to consider is beam width: the lights beam width should be similar to that of the artwork it illuminates. If the beam is too narrow the picture may have a distracting ‘hot spot’ on one particular part. If the beam is too wide, then the background becomes as bright as the picture itself, which defeats the point of the light being there.
Placing your picture lamp and art piece for optimal effect
It is important to consider the height of your picture. It is almost inevitable that due to the Cosine Law, the top of the picture will appear brighter than the bottom.
However, a good reflector and optical system will minimise this irritating effect. Most picture lights allow you to adjust the tilt of the beam, and Astro’s range are no exception. Most of the picture lamps we stock here at Sparks have an adjustable beam angle of 90 degrees, which gives the owner control the direction of the light.
When placing your picture lamp, always look at the edge of the light beam. At large beam angles the optical path of blue light is larger, leading to a spectrum with less blue light and more yellow light.
The result of this is that different colours are seen at the edge of the beam of the lit object; a phenomenon known as ‘colour fringing’.
This is why how you choose to place your picture lamp and art piece is essential. With the LED picture lamps from Astro Lighting, for example, you are getting high colour rendering levels and highly adjustable beam angles (as well as quality design).
This will mean you can avoid the problems of colour fringing, harsh lighting and ‘hot spots’ on your most treasured art pieces. Both you and your visitors will enjoy them as they were meant to be seen!