Without a doubt, this is the most common question that we are asked, and unfortunately there isn't a magic answer that fits all circumstances. There are however some basic rules and guidelines to help. First the "rules":
- Even one uplight is better than none.
- You can never have enough uplights.
In following the first rule, you understand that having any additional, controllable, light in the room will help create the focus and ambiance desired. Therefore, never feel bad for not having exactly the right number of lights because whatever you did is better than nothing! The second rule, however, implies that most rooms have so many interesting features (columns, windows, drapes, corners, doorways, art, etc.), that there is almost no limit—beyond your budget—for what one could do to an event space. More lights doesn't always mean brighter light...on the contrary, having more lights available gives you the chance to use them at lower intensities, at slightly different hues, or in combinations to create layered, textured looks.
So how does one choose the number of lights? First you need to think through a few elements:
- Is budget the ultimate deciding factor?
- How large is the room?
- Are you lighting all four walls, or just featured areas?
- Do you want the outside of the entryway lit?
- What kinds of existing lighting is in the room?
- Will your entertainment provide any lighting?
- Is there something in particular that you wish to highlight (sweetheart table, cake area, stage, chuppah, etc.)?
- Are you using uplights for general warm glow, or are you looking to make an impact with vibrant colors?
- What is the condition of the walls (covered in art, dull airwalls, lots of windows, etc.)?
Often, a simple look at event space photos online, and a few answers to the above questions, will help us ballpark the number of lights that would be ideal.
A note about "seamless coverage"
Many uplighting photos (including our own) can give the illusion of "seamless" coverage where the light covers the entire walls and ceiling evenly. Seamless coverage to the naked eye would require an extreme number lights all around the room (and also some projected from). Room photos are often taken with longer exposures which allows the camera to multiply the effect of the light. This isn't to say that the rooms aren't beautiful with 20-30 lights in them, but that the seamless look really comes through in the photos.
So here are some case-study photos that might help you decide. Note, these case studies were professionally installed using wireless uplights that are no longer available for rental. The DIY rental uplights create a very similar effect (see example page for images) but require power cables. Be sure to check with your venue to ensure that power cables are allowed.
We'll start with a very straightforward example. This is the Georgian Ballroom (4,431 square feet) in the Biltmore Ballrooms. We have a room with very easy to identify architectural features for uplighting (the columns and the end wall elements). This room design featured 30 lights. If you'll notice, we only lit the side of the column facing the room interior. If the client wished to have the columns lit on all four sides, the number of lights would have gone up significantly. Also, we only lit the main inside of the room—not the areas shown to the right and left which were fairly dark when the sun went down.
Here's another room with 30 lights, but this one is even larger (7,672 square feet), and had many doorways to contend with. The client wanted two different colors incorporated into the space, and special attention to their covered sweetheart table. 30 was definitely the minimum for this space unless only special areas were to be highlighted.
This setup in Heritage Hall in Sandy Springs (less than 3,000 square feet) shows how you can still have significant impact with fewer lighting fixtures. With only 12 fixtures available, we focused the lights on the three walls which did not have windows, and skipped the sections of dark wood. The house lights needed to stay brighter than normal, though, to ensure that there was enough lighting in the room.
Here was another example of using fewer lights (16) at the the Carriage House at Lake Lanier Islands. This open-air space was dominated by a large fireplace. By lighting the surrounding hearth, and focusing the remaining lights on the drape work, we were able to achieve the candlelit-elegance look desired by the client. Note, that the room itself was very dark (by design), helped greatly by the large number of candles throughout the space.
Fernbank Museum is a great example of a stunning location, with soaring ceilings, but very little built-in lighting. We always recommend that you visit your venue in the evening and see how much control you have over the existing lighting when making your decision about hiring additional services. Here we utilized 35 uplights for a great effect. An additional few dozen could easily have been used to fill in the gaps, and fewer than 30 would have left too many dark areas.
Finally, an outdoor gazebo at Cedar Plantation in Acworth. This nighttime outdoor wedding was being held in a beautiful gazebo which had basic twinkle lights and some landscaping fixtures. While you cannot spot them easily, 8 uplights were added inside the gazebo to illuminate the inside, and 4 more were elevated on stands, aimed at the front to highlight the wedding party.
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