Lighting design?

Hi folks. How does one learn lighting design? I’m not just talking about workshops or offices, but also gardens, walkways, AND ALSO stage lighting, photography, cinematography, interior design, etc. I see lamps with x number of lumens, but I don’t know how to judge how many lumens I need, how the light will be distributed, what the overall effect will be, whether the shadows will be harsh, what the emotional effect will be, etc. Thanks!

My wife’s - avocation/hobby/part-time second career has been gardening/horticulture and landscape design. She studied and earned certifications at a large world-class botanical garden in our area. If you live near such an institution you might check with them to see if they offer courses on landscape lighting.
Otherwise - I’d suggest Google-ing something like “landscape lighting design courses” and see what fits your needs.

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Take a lux meter to some of your favorite gardens at night and get a feel for what various amounts of light look like. The first few times, just walk up and take readings. But once you’ve got a few under your belt, start “calling your shots”, predicting beforehand and then seeing how accurate your guess was. This will sharpen your eye quickly.

Also, visit the same installations under a full moon and a new moon and get a sense of how much visual impact comes from that amount of ambient light.

Lumens over angle and distance gives you lux at the target, learn that math backwards and forwards. You’ll need to understand beam angles and profiles, when you can get away with approximating a Lambertian curve, etc.

Not everyone agrees on this, but I think harshness is as much a function of clashing colors and color temperatures as it is the actual softness or harness of edges. People are conditioned to see “sunset” colors as soft and “midday” colors as sharp, regardless of how they’re thrown, but if there’s too much dissonance between the color and the edges, it’ll be unnerving but precious few people will be able to articulate why. (IMHO, midday colors can get away with being sharp or diffuse, but sunset colors always want to be diffuse.)

Color Kinetics has some good resources, too.

You’ll find a lot of lighting-design nerds over on the Candlepower Forums, too. I might as well also name Photon Lexicon here, though they’re almost all lasers-first, there are some general optics and lighting nerds (including lots of show designers) among the rabble.

Hope that gets you started!

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