Here at Lightmaster we love to share our lighting know-how. We do this through open days, seminars and client meetings. We like leaving a project knowing that someone is more knowledgeable about lighting than they had when we arrived. Another way we share our wisdom, is with these blogs! These allow us to pick a particular room or style of lighting and discuss the features and benefits.

This blog will give some general tips and show just how bad lighting can be. I’ve trawled through the wonderful twitter page that is @LightingSpy. They post regular updates showcasing the very worst in lighting which provides us with no end of entertainment!! All the photos of bad lighting can be found on their page. All the good lighting images are of Lightmaster projects.

    Even a candle lamp would have been better in this instance!!

Firstly, downlights. A contractor left to their own devices will install your downlights in a grid formation. This is 1. far too much light and 2. expensive, both for the fittings themselves and the energy bills. You do not need 16 symmetrically placed downlights to light a room. As you can see from the second photo below, 7 tiny downlights positioned correctly along with mirror lights is more than enough to light a bathroom.


You also want to keep an eye on your lamps – if you opt for retro-fit lights you need to make sure all your lamps are the same colour temperature, CRI and (this will sound obvious but from the image below, you’ll see it is necessary for me to say this) type. If you have a halogen lamp in one fitting and an LED in another, the difference will be dramatic. Likewise CFL lamps.

Next, LED tape. This in itself is a minefield. What voltage do I need? What power supply will run it efficiently? Do I need it diffused? Is it IP rated? It’s stressful just thinking about it… My advice?? Call a professional. I.E. Lightmaster Design. We supply all kinds of tape and we’re pretty good at knowing what tape should go where. Send us a photo of the room and where you want the tape and we’ll tell you what you need and what power supply is required to run it. You only need to see the photo below to see how badly wrong tape can go. A fair few of the chips have blown (probably down to a lack of heat sink) and it looks like the colour binning of the chips is off. However, the second image shows tape which is correctly installed (tape should ALWAYS be installed on an aluminum backing to act as a heat sink) and the quality of the tape shows in the uniform colour temperature all the way around the kitchen island.


Task lighting is vital, especially in kitchens and when you want to read. You can’t really be chopping an onion if you can’t see where the onion ends and your fingers begin. See below a restaurant (yep, a public place) with such bad lighting that diners are having to read their menu’s using their phone torches. For kitchens, if you have the space, a pendant will provide perfect task light – especially those below on the right as you can change the height of them depending on the task. Alternatively, LED tape installed under your cabinets will work well. The key is to avoid the light being behind you as you’ll just cause shadow.

Picture lighting. Now, the photo I found to depict bad picture lighting beggars belief. To the point that I don’t actually believe that the person knew there was a painting there. Or just really didn’t like the painting and so decided to light it in the worst possible way. Not only do the fittings not match on colour temperature, they don’t focus any light on the painting. None. At all. All they do is highlight the awful ceiling tiles. For the best picture lighting, you either want a spotlight or an asymmetric downlight. The asymmetric lights (shown below right) are great as you can choose the beam angle you want based on the size of the image. Our design team have also worked out a chart which will tell you how far away the light needs to be from the wall to create the right wash of light to frame the painting.

IP rating and exterior lighting is a big one. Now, believe it or not, a paper cocktail umbrella over exposed wiring isn’t IP rating your fitting (although it is my favorite bad lighting photo). In fact, as a general rule, if the wiring is exposed the chances are it isn’t going to hold up against water ingress.

Now, a slightly more technical note aimed at the shopkeeper below who thought that coloured lights would be the best way to make his fruit and veg more appealing. STOP. Nobody wants a blue tinged watermelon. When you’re lighting for retail, you wants light which will bring out the colours of your products. This is all down to CRI (colour rendering index).


The image above on the right is lit at around 70 CRI – the fruit still looks nice but it’s lacking vibrancy. The picture on the left is CRI 95. Those strawberries and blackberries look perfect. They want you to eat them. They’re lit well and they know it. Supermarkets have grasped this concept pretty well but clothes shops are yet to follow suit. The clothes in high street chains look sad and lackluster and it gets worse when you reach the changing rooms. It’s like they don’t want you to buy the clothes! The majority opt for a single downlight in the middle of the cubicle. All this does is create awkward shadows when you’re twirling around trying to see the back. Plus, the light itself is usually hideously unflattering. Not what you want when trying on a £70 dress!

So those are some of the best lighting do’s and don’ts? There will certainly be more to come in the future! The way that the lighting technology is changing currently, there’s bound to be way more faux pa’s soon!

And a big thank you to @LightingSpy to making our day with all these lighting don’ts!!