Flattering Lighting Design with LED

- Jun 28, 2019-

Most people have had the experience of seeing themselves in a mirror under harsh fluorescent lighting and reacting in shock to their unflattering appearance as perceived under that lighting. Movie and television producers and celebrities have long known that certain types of lighting can make people appear to be older or heavier than they are, and they take great pains to adjust lighting to create the most flattering environment possible. Next-generation LED lightinghas now made it possible for everyone to use lighting to reduce the unflattering appearances that cold and harsh lighting tends to create.

Whether someone or something is “flattering” will always be a subjective determination. Yet architects, designers, and public relations experts have arrived at a few methods that most people agree will flatter a person or thing. The top method is to remove harsh overhead lighting that casts cold, bright light and creates undesirable shadows and dark areas. Modern LED lighting meets this goal by facilitating accurate controls over a light source’s color coordinated temperature (“CCT”) and color rendering index (“CRI”).

Lighting sources with high CCT’s will appear bright and harsh, and will be less likely to flatter a subject that is within the area of that light source. Bright fluorescent lights, for example, can have CCT ratings in the 5000K’s. This may be ideal for offices and other environments that benefit from very bright lighting, but it does little to flatter a person’s appearance.

New LED lights are available in dim-to-warm configurations that reduce CCT to lower, warmer ratings, generally in a range of 2200K to 2700K, to cast a more flattering light on a subject. More complex full color tunable LED lights allow adjustments of both CCT and CRI to create lighting conditions that are closest to very flattering natural light. Natural light has also been connected to mood improvements , and at least anecdotally, individuals who are in a better mood tend to view themselves and their environments more positively.

Both people and objects will benefit from flattering LED lighting. Fashion designers and retailers devote significant resources to creating the most flattering lighting for clothing displays.  LED lighting in the fashion industry allows designers and retailers to blend warmer lighting characteristics with higher CRI-rated light that brings out fine details in clothing designs. Without the ability to blend these two lighting characteristics, designers and retailers previously had to elect a tradeoff between flattering warm light that obscured features of their designs, and harsh light that highlighted those features but that also made for a less flattering environment.

LED lighting can also flatter a designer’s budget. Advanced LED lighting systems may impose a higher upfront cost, but they are substantially less costly to operate and maintain. Excess initial costs associated with LED lights are typically recovered in utility cost savings within eighteen months to two years after installation. As LED technology becomes more prevalent, initial costs are also coming down, leading to an even quicker recovery of upfront costs.