Ambient Light Examples: A Comprehensive Guide to Lighting


There are three main types of lighting: ambient light, task light, and accent light. While they both significantly contribute to an aesthetically lit room, today, we will focus on ambient lighting.  Ambient lights act as the main light source in a room before switching to accent and task lights. In today’s article, we’ll talk about ambient light examples, its benefits, and how you can use it to take good pictures.

What is Ambient Light?

Generally, ambient lighting is the source of light in any area/room that’s either artificial or natural. It also means any light that is already present when taking pictures. 

Artificial ambient lighting includes lamps, string lights, and candles, while natural ones are fireflies, moonlight, and sunlight. The ambient light often changes the mood in any space, such that it can be darker or homely, depending on the ambient light level. 

classic lamp antique model in ambient lighting

(classic lamp antique model in ambient lighting) 

How Does Ambient Lighting Work?

Ambient light operates by giving you enough exposure without causing excessive glare exposure on your camera. In other words, it isn’t too low to create no impact nor too high that it hurts your eyes. Usually, any setting or subject will appear calmer with the right ambient lighting. 

Sometimes, people call it “mood lighting” because it can produce a needed sensation. For instance, ambient light can make your home look serene and shiny. You can also add warmth to your space by mixing and matching light fixtures.

controlling ambient lighting using a smart-home application

(controlling ambient lighting using a smart-home application) 

The Benefits of Ambient Lighting

At home, an ambient light source generates a bright white light throughout the space, making it easy to see and preventing eye strains. 

Often, service providers lower ambient lights in bars, restaurants, and bedrooms to make the space feel warmer and more intimate and help people relax. Also, individuals are more likely to spend more money and stay longer if they are comfortable.

ambient lighting in a luxury hotel

(ambient lighting in a luxury hotel)

Several studies show that a room lighting condition may hugely affect how we behave psychologically or physiologically. Thus, decent ambient lighting provides comfortable light levels with no glare, which helps make a productive environment. Glare reduction ensures convenient task performance without headaches, migraines, or eye strain. 

Examples of ambient lighting fixtures

The common types of lighting fixtures include;

  • Floor lamp
  • Table/desk lamp
  • Spotlight
  • Wall sconces
Antique sconces hanging on a wall

(Antique sconces hanging on a wall)

  • Ambient LED downlights,
  • Recessed ceiling lights
  • Torchieres
torchière near a table

(torchière near a table)

  • Track light
  • Ceiling fan light kits
  • Ceiling fixtures like chandeliers
  1. Types of Ambient Light

Undoubtedly, there are several types of ambient light, some of which we’ll discuss below. 

Cloudy daylight; It often appears when clouds cover up the sun.

Golden hour light; The short-time light appears just before or after sunrise. 

golden hour ambient light

(golden hour ambient light)

Direct light; As the name suggests, it’s a harsh plus bright light that is either artificial or natural. 

Window light; refers to light entering a space via a window.

window light

(window light)

Door light; It is any light coming from open doors.

Top light; It describes light positioned on top of a subject and is commonly in subways or stores.  

Backlight; Creating a backlight requires putting a light source behind a subject.

How to Use Ambient Light?

In this section, we’ll show why using the ambient light around you to improve your photos is better than fighting it. Ambient light has several uses, including light balancing and mood setting. 

Below are some ways to use ambient lighting in spaces to improve your photography.

Spontaneous shots

The ambient light around can provide unexpected opportunities. For instance, let’s say it’s early morning, and a magical ray of light is coming from the horizon. Your first instinct can be to take out your photography equipment and capture the beautiful scenery. 

sunrise photography

(sunrise photography)

Lighting for portraits

Even though it’s simple to handle studio lights in a controlled photography setting, taking great portraits using ambient lighting is equally possible. 

As a matter of fact, you can make portraits using window lights or backlighting. 

Flushing out the darkness

With interiors, getting details on dark corners can be a hustle. However, using an overhead light or a well-lit lamp or light can help make your shot brighter.

Ambient lighting lets you take interior photos while lightening dark spaces, thus capturing fascinating details. 

Ambient photography and flash

Adding flash to ambient lighting is majorly about finding the right balance. Ensure you balance the distance from the subject before taking a few test shots and using them to determine the perfect exposure. Even though the process requires some skill, don’t lose hope.

Additionally, try not to make harsh shadows or drown out the natural ambient light mood. 

Note; Ambient light in your surroundings changes quickly. Therefore, it’s best to move around to get a shot before all light fades. 

Setting the mood

Generally, you can achieve various sets of moods using ambient lighting. Some mood shots can be dreamy, mysterious, cool, etc. For instance, you can use fireplaces or candles to warm the atmosphere. Conversely, neon ambient light can result in a cool space. 

How to Add Ambient Lighting to a Room

Choose the right location.

First, decide where to put your lights by picking out the spots requiring ambient illumination. Also, remember that the light is better when you balance it in the room so there isn’t too much brightness or heightened dimness.

You can first assess your dark room when choosing an installation place. Then, switch off several lights without losing your visual ability in the room. Next, mark the positions that need attention.

Finally, balance the exposure by lighting one spot (mostly at the front of your room), and put a table lamp in the back corner. 

Color temperature

For mood lighting, it’s important to choose the right color temperature. For instance, warm white LED bulbs give off a pleasant yellow glow making an atmosphere relaxing and warm. Normally, we’d suggest LEDs with color temperatures ranging between 2000k and 3000k for warm ambient light. The LED works best for living and dining rooms.

LED light bulb

(LED light bulb)

Color rendering index

Color rendering index (CRI) measures how well a light shows the colors of different things when you compare it to sunlight/natural light. It has a minimum to a maximum score ranging from 0 to 100.   

We highly suggest that your house have a CRI of at least 75 (similar to daylight CRI). On the other hand, restaurants and clothing stores can benefit from a CRI of 90 and above. 


You’ll need dimmable lighting to set the different moods in the evening and during the day. Thus, dimmable LED lights come in handy. You can efficiently turn them down during the night and turn them up during the day to match the atmosphere’s mood.  

Accent lighting

After setting up the ambient light, you can incorporate some personality by adding accent lighting to the space. There are many ways to do this, e.g., using LED strips or table lights to draw attention to important parts of the room.

LED strips

(LED strips)

When choosing LED strip lights to use as accent lighting, it’s very important to look at how many LEDs there are per meter. A limited quantity of LEDs in a meter creates tiny spots of light rather than a continuous line. Hence won’t give a neat effect. 

You can achieve an impressive room with a good plan. 

Examples of ambient lighting design

The various places to have ambient lighting can be your bedroom or fireplace, as in the designs below. 

ambient lighting in a bedroom

(ambient lighting in a bedroom)



Ambient lighting is the first layer of your home lighting.

Usually, you’ll need the three ambient, accent, and task lights for good lighting. However, it can be hard to choose home lighting since certain places need all three lighting types, while others will need one or two kinds. 

But there are various options. 


To summarize, when planning lighting, we recommend you start with ambient lighting before proceeding to accent lights. Ambient lighting shows you the amount of light you have in a space and its effects.

We hope our article helps you in designing a nicely ambient lit atmosphere. 

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