A Simple Illustration of the Importance of Proper Print Lighting

I was recently revising the information that I send to the wonderful people who’ve purchased a night photography print. A sincere, heartfelt thanks to those of you who’ve decided to put one of my images on your wall — I appreciate your support. The print info includes details about the Lightjet printing process, paper, print handling, and finishing options (matting, framing, mounting, etc.). I take great care in my printing and I hope it shows. Like everything else, prints are subjective, and printing night photographs that clearly “read” as night photography can be a particularly challenging enterprise.

After printing and selling night photographs for a few years, I realized there is a key issue that needs discussion with fine art print clients: print display lighting. My ideal night photography printing style is a little bit on the dark side. For a night photography print to really sing, some type of dedicated lighting is required for the finished product.

Let’s observe a visual illustration of this often overlooked aspect of presenting your work. The following photo was taken under low ambient room lighting, and adjusted to simulate how much detail can be seen in the print:

Arnold Schwarzenegger with ambient room lighting

Arnold Schwarzenegger with ambient room lighting

You can’t see much detail, and the contrast is flat. What this print really needs is a dedicated light source to reveal the inherent artistic majesty:

Arnold Schwarzenegger with proper print lighting

Arnold Schwarzenegger with proper print lighting

The dedicated lighting makes this print the centerpiece of the room. The print now displays excellent detail and snappy contrast. The pictures tell the story better than I can explain this concept in words. If you want to print deep, dark luscious night photographs, they’re going to need some display lighting. Without proper lighting your customers will see a flat, dark print that reveals their reflection in the glass. But with proper lighting your work will soar.

3 thoughts on “A Simple Illustration of the Importance of Proper Print Lighting

  1. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for this. One cannot control what the customer will ultimately do, but it sounds like the take-away is to include some “use instructions” with prints to try to ensure happy customers.

  2. Joe,
    An interesting bit of information. Certainly true of all prints, but no doubt even more so for your night photos. When displaying them in your own home, what do you use? I’m not talking about what you use in your printing area to check work as it comes out of the printer, but for actual display conditions.

  3. Right now quite a bit of the home environment is sub-optimal for displaying framed pieces. A couple of walls in the front of my shack get enough indirect natural light to look good in the daytime. Track lighting with warm spotlight bulbs would be ideal, but doesn’t go well with the decor. Have looked into some other options, but haven’t found the perfect thing yet. Printing on FujiTrans and using a backlit display is something I’ve been investigating that looks somewhat promising for night photography.

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