Luxury Lighting Advice from a Professional Interior Photographer

lights over sink

The best type of advice comes from the people who are experts in their field and follow their own advice daily. When it comes to interiors we all know that lighting is key but sometimes it can be tricky to know where to start. Joel Duncan is a professional photographer who specialises in Interior, Architectural, Commercial, Hotel and Real Estate, so he knows a thing or two about how to ensure luxury lighting is spot on in a multitude of interior spaces. He shares his expert advice with us...

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” - Alfred Eisenstaedt

modern lighting over dining table

I have been photographing luxury rental apartments for over 5 years now. Over the course of my career, I have come across a varying array of luxury accents and decor. As a professional photographer, my main obsession has been lighting. I’m not talking about the beautiful light effects that are added to photographs in post-production via Photoshop. I’m talking about the beautiful lighting that is inherent in great interior design and the amazing interior light fixtures that are now available.

As a matter of fact, my main focus when photographing luxury apartments is to limit editing; that’s for a couple reasons. Firstly, it takes a lot of time to edit a poorly lit picture. Secondly, it does not reflect the true nature of the apartment; therefore, if the apartment is featured in an magazine or website, the customer will feel short-changed.

In my post below I’m going to go over the three types of lighting: ambient, task and accent, explain how their combined use will provide a beautiful and welcoming message to any of your visitors, and provide examples of fixtures for each that you can incorporate into your home’s interior design.

- Joel Duncan – Real Estate Photographer

lamps in living room

Ambient Lighting

Ambient Lighting, also known simply as general lighting, is the overall illumination of a particular area of your home. The level of brightness is such that it is congenial, and provides you and your family with sufficient lighting to move safely around that specific area. Smaller areas (the utility room, for example) use ambient lighting as the immediate source of what is known as Task Lighting (more on that later). So how can you achieve good ambient lighting? Ambient lighting is fundamental to your overall lighting plan (both interior and exterior) and is accomplished through the use of a variety of fixtures, such as chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, track lights, recessed lighting and lantern-style fixtures for the outside. We’ll look now at chandeliers in particular.

Way back in the 15th Century, chandeliers were regarded as a symbol of class, wealth and status. However, in today’s world, chandeliers are far more commonplace. Though they still have that air of prestige about them, more importantly, they are now affordable to the vast majority of homeowners. The most popular types of chandeliers are as follows:

house doctor
House Doctor
House Doctor
House Doctor


Crystal chandeliers instantly add elegance and a touch of the dramatic to any home. For your dining room or hallway, you can’t go wrong with a crystal prism chandelier. It appears as if it is simply oozing fresh crystals as you move around it. Additionally, it is guaranteed to provide an impressive conversation piece with family and friends.


Glass chandeliers provide the perfect way to enhance your home’s furnishings and your overall interior design plan. Designed in both traditional and modern styles, they come in a variety of sizes to fit seamlessly into your home. Popular places to install a glass chandelier tend to be the hallway, dining room, kitchen and bathroom.


Personally, I believe there is no better light source than simple candlelight. Candle-style chandeliers are offered in a plethora of designs and sizes; many have bulbs that imitate the flickering effect of a flame from a candle, giving you that real sense of true candlelight. By placing a hanging candelabra in either your dining room or hallway, you will certainly add charm and character to your home.


Chandeliers with shades provide a similar effect to that of the crystal and glass varieties, but offer a more discrete light source, particularly effective in a bedroom (no surprise there…). As with all chandeliers available today, designs range from classic to modern, and at varying sizes. A little pro tip for you here – match your curtains and colour scheme with the shades themselves to create style and cohesiveness.

lights over table
Good & Mojo

Task Lighting

Task Lighting is exactly that – lighting a specific area to enable you to do a particular activity, e.g. cooking, reading, working, homework (one for the kids), etc. It is usually provided by pendants, track lights, recessed lighting, under-cabinet lighting, or by desk or floor-standing lamps. Because task lighting is more focused in one area, your ambient light levels can be reduced; this will provide the necessary contrast that good task lighting should provide. We will use pendant light fixtures, used in either the kitchen or dining room, as our example to highlight the benefits of well-designed task lighting.

lights over table

Pendant lights, hanging by either a chain or cord, offers direct lighting over a specific area. I’ve noticed that these hanging lights are seriously more popular with interior decorators now than they have ever been. Pendants are cheaper than chandeliers and provide excellent lighting for activity-specific areas like the kitchen or dining room. A key feature is the ability to change light bulb easily in accordance to the light intensity that you need. Furthermore, as with all luxury light fixtures now available, they combine style with practicality. If that wasn’t enough, they can also free up valuable space that is usually lost to table or floor-standing lamps.

lights brick walll

Accent Lighting

Accent Lighting is used to illuminate a particular object, like a piece of artwork, or a particular area of interest in your home, normally in a dramatic way. An essential part of anyone’s interior design plan, accent lighting must provide at least 3 times as much light as the general lighting of the area where it is positioned. It is provided by fixtures such as wall-mounted sconce lights, track lights or recessed lighting. Our focus will be on the use of sconce light fixtures.

mushroom lamp

Wall sconce lights, like the chandeliers and pendants described earlier, are currently trending, to use the internet analogy. Because they are mounted on the wall, they can be positioned at the all-important eye-level of those who enter your home (invited, of course). Additionally, they can be a source of ambient lighting where the positioning of a chandelier or similar is not feasible, e.g. your stairway. Used in the bathroom, placed either side of your vanity mirror, they will highlight all of your glorious perfections. Sconce lights began life as wall-mounted candlesticks in the days of our ancestors, lighting hallways and parlours. Nowadays, the open candelabra styles remain popular, as are the sconces that have an opaque glass shading, which create a more subtle and intimate effect.

table lamps
table lamps

Throughout my five years of experience photographing luxury penthouses and apartments I’ve learnt that all of the above lighting styles and examples given give interiors a luxurious feel when integrated correctly in your interior design plan: ambient lighting (such as the iconic chandelier), task lighting (such as the increasingly popular pendant light) and, last but by no means least, accent lighting (such a wall-mounted sconce fixtures), positioned to accentuate those works of art that so beautifully dominate your home.