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SPOT ON! Illuminate objects and art with great spotlights

Daphine by Lumina
Ingo Schaer
Written by Ingo Schaer

You can create interesting accents in your home with spotlights. Not only pictures and photographs can be highlighted effectively, but you can illuminate entire rooms by using spotlights.

Daphine by Lumina

Daphine by Lumina

Paintings unfold their full effect only if they are properly lit. When choosing the bulbs, you should pay attention to correct color reproduction.

Paintings, photos and sculptures only unfold their full effect with the correct lighting. With spotlights, you will be able to display your treasures in the best possible light!

Spotlights were the first lights that were transferred from professional lighting environments to private homes. Technically spotlights are simple descendants of stage lighting. Here it is actually important to send a bright beam to a well-defined place. Using reflectors, frames and lenses, the light is highly concentrated. However, those lights are impractical for domestic use, since a light radiation angle of 30 degrees is normally sufficient. Therefore, you will find hardly any lights with lens optics, since the available lights usually work with reflectors and lamp shades only.

The first models were very noticeable and had a technical appearance, but since the establishment of low-voltage halogen technology and especially with the development of powerful LED spots, those lights were reduced to very small light points. Some halogen lamps still remind you of the technical history, which extends into the theater world, but is also often reflected in the lighting of the retail and hospitality industry. The optical advantage of the spots is obvious: precise light control provides not only a dramatic effect and draws the attention of the viewer to a specific object, but at the same time moves everything else in the background, what is not immersed in the spotlight.

Art by Buschfeld

Art by Buschfeld

As the name suggests, this spotlight was specially designed for the lighting of art objects.

Spotlights can also be used as excellent background lighting by creating several lit spaces that merge into each other. Spotlights are available as single light fixtures, but they are usually part of a series of lights that are mounted in the ceiling as well as on it. Virtually all lights which are part of lighting systems or light rails include this effective lighting technology.

How to put pictures and objects in the limelight

As with all visual processes, only light reveals objects. Therefore, it would be a pity if you could not display your pictures, sculptures, accessories or antiques during the evening. But not only paintings, prints, and posters can be put in the limelight, but also the drawings of your children or the most beautiful photographs of your recent vacation trip. What appears during the day in its best light thanks to sunlight requires some considerations with regards to the light design during twilight hours and at night.

There are many ways to properly illuminate pictures in dining, living and bed rooms or in stairwells and hallways. In principle, the following three types can be distinguished: first, you can work with individual picture lights. A ceiling-mounted spotlight as well as a long-sleeved light which is attached to the wall above the image and illuminates the artwork from one to two meters (3 to 6 feet) distance is suitable. What definitely does not work is diffused general lighting from the ceiling or a floor lamp in front of the picture.

Dome LED by SLV lighting

Perfect picture presentation: this light has a rotating and pivoting head. Made out of chrome.

The object would either be barely noticeable or you would create a tripping hazard. Picture lighting is available in many versions, and if you pay attention to the color reproduction of the lamps, nothing can actually go wrong. You should reduce the brightness for photosensitive prints, drawings and watercolors.

LED spots are especially useful for heat-sensitive objects.

The second option for illuminating pictures consists of ceiling lights. When renovating a house or during new construction, those ceiling lights can be built very discreetly into the ceiling. This requires a lighting design which outlines the lighting situation and also ensures that all cables are already installed in the right places in the recesses of the ceiling. Recessed light fixtures produce the same light effect as surface-mounted light fixtures. Ceiling light fixtures are normally not explicitly intended for picture lighting, they are rather part of the zone or even general lighting, which ads excitement to every room due to their bright light cone.

PadLED by Paulmann

PadLED by Paulmann

For rooms that do not allow recessed light fixtures, this lighting system offers a practical alternative.

A third and more flexible picture lighting solution consists of light rail systems, which can be customized based on the different hanging situations of pictures. These systems have their origin in the 1960s. They were inspired by theater and made their way into private homes, so it is now possible to illuminate living rooms in many flexible ways, which was previously only known from commercial areas of hotels and shops.

Sculptures, furniture and statues

If you illuminate three-dimensional objects such as sculptures, furniture or accessories, you should use several light sources: sculptures require lighting from multiple sides in order to be viewed. Only the play of light and shadow puts our brain in a state in which we can fully recognize the location of the surface. A sculpture illuminated from all sides with bright or diffused light will not only lose its three-dimensional appearance, but unfortunately also loses its essence – the plasticity.

Do not overshoot the target, because bright lights cause hard transitions of light and shadow. A diffused general lighting can also be beneficial, because you will be rewarded with smooth transitions between lighter and darker zones and you will be able to truly enjoy the effect.

About the author

Ingo Schaer

Ingo Schaer

Ingo has been in the lighting business for over 20 years. He regularly blogs about trends and tips in the industry while running one of the most complete contemporary lighting ecommerce sites on the net. Please take a moment to browse his website and feel free to contact Ingo for all your lighting needs.

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