You have ordered a fine art photographic print and are excited to have it hanging in your home. Now what? You have about a month before your print arrives and you know exactly where it will hang. Have you considered how the ambient light in the room will affect the print? Have you thought about adding lights in the room to make sure the photograph really glows to its full potential?
Why Artists Light Their Work
Many times when you see a fine art photograph it is hanging in a gallery or an art show. Usually the prints are lit with overhead track lights that are color balanced and angled properly to make the art look its best.
The above photograph shows a typical display of my work. Even though there is plenty of ambient light in the room I still have the overhead lights on to best exhibit my prints. When selling my art at outdoor shows I keep the lights on inside the tent. Many times the outdoor light is cool and blue, which does not bring out the warmth of my work. My lights are color balanced at 3500K to bring out the pleasing glow I try so hard to capture when I photograph a scene.
Lighting Your New Art Piece
When hanging a print in your home be aware of the light from windows and how it will affect the color and reflections on the print during the day. You will notice as the light changes throughout the day the mood of the photograph can change. Installing an overhead light system may reduce the changing light on your print and bring out the full potential of the image.
In the above image you can see the print is only being lit by the lamps on each side. It has no pop or vibrancy and does not light up the room with its glow.
With the overhead light on as in the above image, it changes the feel of the whole room bringing the print to life and making it the centerpiece. This client lives in an apartment and could not install high-end track lights but their solution was simple yet affective.
As you can see they installed an inexpensive small track light fixture in an existing overhead light socket which gave them the ability to direct the light onto the print allowing the full autumn colors to shine.
LED Lighting, The Best Option
Other options for lights can include track light packages like those sold at Home Depot or Lowes.
You can also use existing recessed lights by adding an adjustable eyeball socket to properly aim the light.
For smaller art pieces a dedicated picture light that hangs on the wall or even the frame can be a perfect solution to brighten up your print.
There are many types of lightbulbs from which to choose but with the advent of LED lights I have found they work best. LED lights keep a constant color temperature especially when installed with a dimmer switch. Floodlights provide a more even brightness across the print rather than using a spotlight that can create a bright spot on the image. When possible the lights should be three or more feet away from the print and high enough to be angled down 45 degrees. This angle will reduce glare from the light when viewing the print.
Enjoy Your New Art!
Lighting your photographic print properly is key to being able to enjoy the art to its fullest. Proper lighting need not cost much and many times track lights can easily be installed in a location where a light already exists. Just make sure to choose lights with a color temperature in the 2700-4000K range and to use floodlights, not spotlights for best results.