View Full Version : Display Lighting

Will Whitaker
20-Feb-2017, 12:39
I'm really not sure how to categorize this post. This seems as good as any, so I'll let it fly.

I am in the process of installing a darkroom, probably my last. The house is built with multiple rooms flanking a central hallway which leads from the front door through the center of the house to the back door. The hallway is 7 feet wide by 10 feet high. I wish to use it as a long gallery space. Besides making for a nice entryway to my home, it would provide me some "feedback space". I feel that hanging new prints on the wall and allowing some time to reflect on them will be an essential part of my own artistic growth process.

Beyond some refresh work to the walls, I need to install display lighting. I want to place track lighting down the center of the hallway ceiling so I can hit both left and right walls. What I need is some guidance for this application. The local lighting salesroom had little-to-no advice when I stopped by last week to ask. Their suggestion was to go look at some installations downtown and copy what they have done.

You can probably imagine my reaction to that. I'm happy to use other people's work as inspiration, but I'll make my own design and chose my own hardware, thank you.

Still they're the only lighting house in town, and I'd rather stay local, if possible. I really do not want to deal with the big box stores because I have not been impressed with the help (or lack of help) that I've received there in the past.

I'm sure some of you have experience working with track lighting and I'd like to pick your brains.

I would surely prefer LED for energy savings and heat output. That technology seems to be developing overnight. How are lights rated and what would be a typical rating for a gallery application? What color temperature is appropriate for black & white? I saw a bulb rated at 4K and it looked good to me. More neutral than a 3K next to it, but not as blue as higher Kelvin bulbs. Does a higher color temperature rating imply that there is also greater UV output? Is concern about UV important for my application?

Are any of the LEDs dim-mable. If not, how can light outputs be balanced? I would prefer to remain line voltage, if that matters.

The local store sells Satco which seems to be nice. Any comments?

My experience with track lighting dates back to Lightolier some 35 or more years ago, so ancient history.

As always, thanks in advance!

bob carnie
20-Feb-2017, 12:49
Hi Will

one little thing, for lighting is that in the darkroom you should have a balance between tungsten and daylight. One little thing of late is that I need to refit all my daylight flourescents as I am using alt processes that do not like the strong light.

Richard Wasserman
20-Feb-2017, 12:54
The bulbs are more important than the fixtures. Look for bulbs with a CRI over 90. I like SORAA bulbs that have a CRI rating of 95 and are dimmable (with the proper electronic dimmer).
These are just some of the bulbs they make https://www.1000bulbs.com/category/led-mr16-60w-65w-equal/ I personally like 3000 bulbs, while 2700 is closer to traditional incandescent. 4K and higher are too cool for my taste.

I can recommend WAC track lights. We used them in our home and they are well made and look nice. We bought ours from build.com

Peter De Smidt
20-Feb-2017, 13:04
The standard are Solux bulbs at about 4k. http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/5095/review-solux-lighting/

I would get one Solux. Use a cheap fixture. Now use it to compare to the other options. Is the difference worth it for your work?

Darin Boville
20-Feb-2017, 15:19
I went through this a few years ago, thinking I would pick the "correct" color quality and color temperature and all of that. It ended up being a bit of a labyrinth with no clear answers and no perfect solutions.

First, go LED. They seem quite good nowadays and are dimmable. The color index rating is quite high, at least out here in California (they passed some sort of law a few years ago that said if you want to offer a rebate on your light bulbs you have to meet certain color quality standards). Little heat, no UV, I believe as well. I bought the PAR30's because they put out a nice directional light and use inexpensive fixtures. No mercury hiding in the bulb. Low energy use. I think I'm running my whole workshop with about thirty PAR30s for the energy use of three or four tungsten bulbs.

All good. But what about the color temperature, especially when mixed with indirect daylight? Here's where the paralysis by analysis can set in.

There is no good answer other than just try them out. Your daylight will be constantly changing (literally) and will be dramatically different depending on the weather. The color of the walls will have a big effect in an enclosed space like a hallway. And people will react differently to them and will react differently depending on if they are coming in from the outside or going out from the inside.

It goes on and on, and then if you are exhibiting elsewhere or selling prints what control do you really have on the new space?

Many people will try nevertheless to control all the variables or at least minimize them. But there are bigger variables at work. Take the wall paint. The temptation is to paint the walls some neutral off white color to avoid color casts. But that's also boring. Some of the most amazing exhibits I've seen have gone in a radically different direction--an astonishing display of an Ansel photo on a rich chocolate brown wall at the Akron Art Museum in the 1980s. A powerful Turner painting at the deYoung against a rich dark blue wall.

So my advice boils down to this: Use LEDs with a 95 or higher CRI. Then from there just go with what looks good to you, as unscientific as that might sound. (But not really--consider--all those complex variables (including the unknown ones and the ones little understood) are processed all the time by your vision/brain. It's very good at it. Reasoning it through with so many complex variables seems a poor substitute.

Anyway, that has been my experience.


Jon Shiu
20-Feb-2017, 15:52
We're using some inexpensive Ikea tracklights with MR16 LED bulbs from Amazon and they look great. Have tried different temperature bulbs and actually they all look good with the prints.


Bruce Watson
20-Feb-2017, 16:21
I bought the PAR30's because they put out a nice directional light...

More details please. What PAR30 LED light did you find that you like? I've been looking for years for a decent PAR30 LED without success.

20-Feb-2017, 16:35
We have these down the hall in our shop, mounted on tracks and shining down on photos on the wall, as well as everywhere else, too: http://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com/16w_led_p38_893_prd1.htm

They look very nice, but some people might find them too cool--they are virtually equal to daylight. In the rooms with sunlight one hardly knows they're on. One problem with this particular bulb is that it is very bright, and dimmers would be necessary, I think. In the workshop I have nine of them and keep them turned down about halfway all the time. We've been in this location for four months now, and I am happier with these than any lights in any other shop I've worked in. The only picture on our site shot under them is the person at the desk, marked "reception area" in the slide show on this page: http://darntonhersh.com/about/

Richard W mentions "proper" dimmers. Some of our rooms flicker a bit, but I think we just have normal dimmers.

20-Feb-2017, 16:37
For my gallery setup, I put the tracks about 2-3' from the wall along the ceiling. Don't try to get it all from one track. If the angle is poor, you'll be making a shadow on your photo as you approach it. It could also create reflections from the light in the upper parts of big frames.

I used whatever the house brand of track was from Lowes. It was junk. Probably about 20% of it didn't work reliably. But I had to finish it in a hurry and couldn't swap it all out once I got into it. It's fine now, but it was false economy.

For lights, I agree the higher CRI led ones are good. Just put them in and don't worry about the wattage as long as it's sufficient.
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00RMJZV6K/ is what I used for 3000k bulbs. I bought 10 4-packs. They are good. I've seen other local art businesses use them too.

I did one area gray paint and one area white paint. I liked the gray painted walls better for showing photos if you have the choice. It makes whites stand out and gray tones in photos look like they belong.



Leszek Vogt
20-Feb-2017, 17:06
Just got LED's CRI 90+ to replace the old fried bulbs....it's Ecosmart 50W equivalent and "daylight" temp (5000K) = PAR 20. Just checked it and it runs all kinds of circles in brightness, and these are dimmable. But, you find the same in different temps like 4000K (also dimmable) and you can order them on amazonia and delivered to your doorstep. Mine came via H. Depot.


Will Whitaker
20-Feb-2017, 18:42
Thank you for the many very helpful suggestions and links. I am intrigued by the SoLux and must investigate it further. If I understand correctly, the heart of SoLux is the bulb which can then be used in any fixture for that given bulb configuration, e.g., PAR30 bulb in PAR30 fixture, the fixture can be sourced from anywhere as long as it meets the standards.

For my gallery setup, I put the tracks about 2-3' from the wall along the ceiling. Don't try to get it all from one track. If the angle is poor, you'll be making a shadow on your photo as you approach it. It could also create reflections from the light in the upper parts of big frames.


This is the kind of info that I was hoping to get from the vendor, if not the manufacturer, i.e., how to effectively design a space with track lighting. Your comment to not "try to get it all from one track" I can sort of understand. And if illuminating adjacent walls, clearly it's going to require an "L" connector. But for facing walls as in my application, it seems that one track would be desirable.

In my case the display walls are 10' tall and 7' apart. If a single track were used and assuming no offset adjustment for hardware, i.e., light source on plane with the surface and assuming images hung at 5' from the floor, then the light falls on the image with an angle of incidence of 35. The question, then, is what is the desirable angle of incidence of the illuminating light so as to avoid shadows, reflections, etc.? This is completely apart from the type of bulb used or the CRI or any other parameters.

In my case above, I am assuming a single track running the center of the hallway to be used for illuminating images placed on both facing walls. It seems to me that that would be a reasonable solution. It might not be if the ceilings were lower or if I were to drop the lighting heads by use of stems. But given the dimensions I have to work with it seems a reasonable solution.

20-Feb-2017, 18:59
Hi Will
when I was setting up the small gallery space I have I called solux and they told me what I needed the angle ect
give them the size of your space and they will tell you how to light it for best effect

20-Feb-2017, 19:43
Maybe I'm missing something, but when I just googled 'SoLux' what came up was halogen only, 12V MR16. This is an obsolete bulb and here in Canada they cannot even be sold. The reason is that they run very hot and the undersized pin connectors are fire hazards. If you do wish to use these and can't find tracks and fixtures, I have 20' of track and a whole bucket full of fixtures I would be happy to donate, because they're going in the trash soon otherwise. I refuse to install them either in my own house or anyone else's, but I would make an exception if you decided on SoLux.

The CRI values SoLux claim are most likely exaggerated, and the color temperature will change (a lot) with dimming. Still, for many years jewellery stores all used halogen lighting for their display cases, because that's what makes shiny things 'pop'. It's only in the last couple of years that LED technology has caught up.

Some notes on dimming: most LEDs will dim to perhaps 10% (power consumption, which will be maybe 40% perceived light output), then flicker and turn off. Dimming can be with conventional triac dimmers or 0-10V low voltage dimming which will require extra wiring, or you can go the expensive route and get WiFi or Bluetooth systems. Some of the newer bulbs will change color as they dim to mimic the 'natural' look that we're used to with incandescent dimming, ie they'll be 4K nominally but will change to 1,7K or something as they dim (go from white to yellow). The new, new products have adjustable color output, either wirelessly, on fixture, or through a dedicated control. Given the difficulty with additional wiring on track lights and the great expense of buying all Bluetooth bulbs, you will most likely need a bulb that dims with a conventional triac dimmer.

If you wish to purchase through your local store, and wish to go LED, I suggest you inquire which brands they sell, then go on those manufacturer's websites (like Phillips (http://www.usa.lighting.philips.com/prof/lamps/led-lamps-and-systems/led-lamps#pfpath=0-EP01_GR-EP01LSSL_CA)) and choose the bulb most suited to your needs, prioritizing CRI. PAR20 (https://www.amazon.com/Juno-Lighting-R551WH-Trac-Lites-Voltage/dp/B001DYRLJU/ref=sr_1_1?s=lamps-light&ie=UTF8&qid=1487644745&sr=1-1&keywords=track+light+par20) or GU10 (https://www.amazon.com/Nuvo-TH312-Square-Track-White/dp/B002OMJ76A/ref=sr_1_1?s=lamps-light&ie=UTF8&qid=1487644685&sr=1-1&keywords=track+light) will be most likely used in whichever track light you choose, pick a fixture that is within your budget and has decent aesthetics before choosing your bulb.

Darin Boville
20-Feb-2017, 20:52
More details please. What PAR30 LED light did you find that you like? I've been looking for years for a decent PAR30 LED without success.

Whatever Feit Lightening model Costco was carrying a few years ago. I do remember that they upgraded to CRI to the mid-90s just after I bought mine! But I then upgraded my entire house last year with a variety of build sizes (from Costco/Feit). Come to think of it I might have BR (wider, floods) at my workshop rather than the narrower-bean PARs. In any event no problems with any of them in terms of failure or buzzing or dimming (except the small ceiling fan-style bulbs that flicker ever so slightly on my one ceiling fan if dimmed. Looking for a replacement for those.

No one has ever commented in any way on the color quality of the lights or commented on them at all in any way. I suppose that is a good thing!


21-Feb-2017, 05:08
Will, I missed the part about the 10' high ceilings. That could work with one track. I am used to ceilings I can reach.