The Importance of Contrast in Lighting

To understand lighting, you might have to un-learn something first …. Lighting design does not start with light levels, it starts with the difference in light levels, or contrast. It is through contrast that light can reveal form, communicate what is important in a space and help us understand what to do when we enter a new place.

Don’t be “sold short” on your next design concept – Learn more here by viewing this short 2 minute video extract from my webinar on “Descriptions of Light”

Video Transcript
“You have to unlearn something here. Everyone in the world will be telling you “What’s the light level?” or asking you “What’s the light level? Why haven’t you done a light level plot for your design?”
Well, the reason is…that’s not the place to start a design. The right the place to start the design is ‘contrast’.
Let me move on and show you some examples as I talk about each of these. Contrast is important because contrast allows readability, legibility or understanding of a space. It tells you what is important in a space. It allows you to focus on things. So, in the retail environment, that might be focusing on stock or display. In the hospitality environment that’s focusing on decorative elements, on the bar- because in a bar hospitality environment that’s why you’re going there- and the table where you and your friends will gather. That is the place to start to identify, in your design, the key elements of why people are there and what they are doing and then light them in a way where the contrast is around about three to one as a minimum. Now that means that if you want people to see something and you’re going to light it to say 100 lux, everything else needs to be 30 lux- a third. Or if someone tells you “I need 100 lux through the whole space,” then you need to light things to a minimum of 300.
So you get to see the importance of contrast, because our eyes adapt to different light levels automatically. So to tell our eye and tell our brain that something is important and is the accent we need to light it approximately three times the amount of light as the background.”

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