What Lumen Intensity Do You Need for Photo Lighting?

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to get your photos to look as stunning and professional as the ones you see on social media, the answer may lie…

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Light for Lumens

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to get your photos to look as stunning and professional as the ones you see on social media, the answer may lie in the lumen intensity you’re using in your photography. The key to getting the best photos is to use proper lighting, so you’ll need to know what proper lighting is for your particular photography project.

The ideal lumen intensity for photography is over 1,000 lumens. A high lumen output that mimics natural daylight gives the best photography results.

While that’s a simple answer, there’s more to it than that. Below, we’ll go more in depth and cover how many lumens you need for task lighting, why to use lumens instead of wattage, whether or not LED lighting is adequate, and much more!

How Many Lumens Do I Need for Task Lighting?

The right task lighting can improve the speed and efficiency with which you complete your tasks, whether that be reading, writing, assembling, or photographing. When you have the correct number of lumens for your specific task, you will experience less eye strain and fatigue.

If you’re older or have poor eyesight, you will want to keep that in mind when selecting your task lighting. Those experiencing age-related decline in their eyesight or any other visual impairment will need brighter light than someone with stronger eyesight, particularly when it comes to completing tasks that require attention to detail.

Symptoms of poor task lighting include:

  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision

If you’ve ever experienced these after working on a task for a while, you may not have had the right intensity of lumens to accommodate your visual condition and particular task. Without the proper lighting, your eyes need to strain more to see and you probably lean in closer to see with the necessary clarity. Poor posture and squinting can lead to physical pain and eye discomfort.

Why Does Proper Task Lighting Matter? 

If you were to try completing a task in the proper lighting after previously using lighting that has a lower lumen output than needed, you would notice a difference in how you feel afterward.

Choosing the proper lighting for your task will result in:

  • Less eye fatigue and sensitivity
  • Less neck, back, and shoulder pain
  • Less dry eye and blurry vision
  • Less overall fatigue

Less discomfort while working on a task will also benefit your productivity as well, since you’ll be able to work longer without feeling the need for frequent breaks. 

While the specific output of lumens needed can vary based on task and a person’s vision quality, there are some general recommendations. The range most often used for task lighting is 1,000-1,400 lumens. Keep in mind, however, that the housing for the bulb can affect the light output as well. Other factors can also come into play, such as shading and the amount of light being directed away from your task area.

You may need to adjust your needs to the higher end of the lumen scale to obtain the optimal lighting for your task. A recommended formula for task lighting is 50 lumens per square foot of space you need to light. However, some tasks may require more light. Tasks that involve seeing things in fine detail such as reading or assembling could require up 100-300 lumens per square foot of space.

Why Look at Lumens Instead of Wattage for Quality Photos?

Lumens are different from watts in that they measure the amount of light coming from a bulb. Wattage actually describes the energy use of a light bulb. If you were to go to the store and pick up a 60-watt bulb to replace one over your bathroom vanity, you may find that it doesn’t always produce the same amount of light as the other bulbs in the vanity.

When it comes to photography, the bulbs used are more specialized but are still labeled with wattage. Many experienced photographers knew which wattage to use for different photography projects.

Over time, as light bulbs became more energy-efficient and LED bulbs started to replace incandescent bulbs, the use of wattage became less relevant as a measure of the brightness of a bulb. 

LED bulbs have significantly less wattage than incandescent bulbs although they still emit comparable brightness. There needed to be a consistent measure of that brightness across the board and that’s where lumens come in.

Is LED Lighting Good for Photography?

LED bulbs have some advantages for photography usage and they’re becoming more common, so you may want to know if you should consider switching. They tend to stay cooler which is helpful for any photography subjects that may be more heat-sensitive, including certain foods or people. LED bulbs are also longer-lasting and more energy-efficient, so they are a good economical choice.

Choosing the Right LED Bulb for Photography 

The color temperature of a bulb can change the appearance of photos quite a bit. If you viewed several photographs of the same room but with different bulbs with different color temperatures, you would notice that one picture may show the room as looking more yellow while in another, the room may have more of a bluish cast. A bulb that is considered warm will give off yellow tones and a cool bulb is responsible for blue tones. 

  • It’s important to decide what kind of look you want for each photo before you select your LED bulbs. For the most versatility, you may want to use LED bulbs that are made for video production even though you are taking photos. These bulbs give the flexibility of changing the color temperature to that which you desire for each photo shoot.
  • When purchasing an LED bulb for photography, check the package for the real wattage and equivalent wattage. The real wattage will give you the energy use. The equivalent wattage will give you the wattage of an incandescent bulb that most closely matches the brightness of the LED bulb. This number is important for achieving similar results to those you got in the past using incandescent lighting. 
  • When shopping for LED bulbs for photography, make certain that you are not purchasing household LED bulbs. Those will not produce the same effect as those designs for professional use. Bulbs for photography tend to be much more expensive than household bulbs but the higher cost will result in a higher quality photo.

What is a Good Wattage for Photography Lighting?

If you don’t have the advantage of natural lighting for your photography, you can still get great quality, professional-looking photos by choosing the right artificial light sources. A high lumen output, over 1000 lumens, would be essential for getting the best results. That would equate to 75 watts or more for an incandescent bulb —  or over 12 watts for an LED bulb — although the lumen to watt conversion can vary by country.

Here’s a lumen conversion chart for incandescent and LED bulbs in the U.S.:


One of the most important factors for getting the best quality photos is to find artificial lighting that resembles natural daylight as closely as possible. This gives the most universally flattering effect without the photo subject taking on too much of a yellow or blue cast. Daylight Balanced LEDs are a good option for long-lasting, energy-efficient bulbs that give the effect of natural daylight. 

The Right Lumen Intensity Will Give You the Best Photos

As the market shifts toward a focus on the lumen output of lighting rather than wattage, it’s important to know how to determine the lumen intensity that matches the wattage you are used to using in your photos. Choosing the right bulbs, whether incandescent or LED, play a large role in your photo quality. Knowing how to select the right bulbs with a high lumen intensity of more than 1,000 lumens will help you achieve the photo effect you desire.  

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Benjamin and Sheila Harty


Welcome to Skyline FBA! We are product photographers who specialize in E-Commerce Hero Images (the main listing image), and we help entrapeneurs create the visuals they need to get their products noticed in the online world.

We started our journey selling on Amazon ourselves, so we know just how hard it can be to run a profitable e-commerce business.

Our mission is to create step-by-step resources that bring together the best strategies and tips from successful clients in our network. We're glad you're here, and we hope you enjoy your stay!

- Benjamin & Sheila

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