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Lighting 101: What is "good quality light"?

Dec 21, 2022 3:52:55 PM / by Kirsty Happonen

December 21 is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It's the shortest day of the year in Helsinki with only 5 hours, 49 minutes of daylight. We care about good quality lighting to get us through these darkest days of winter!

December 21, 2022. Helsinki at 14:30pm facing south toward the midday sun. 

But what do we mean when we ask for good quality lighting to be used in healthcare? Scroll down to learn:

  • What are the 3 types of lighting?
  • Who defines lighting in healthcare facilities?
  • How is Light Quality Defined?
  • Other characteristics affect the light and image quality?
  • Is it possible to improve my lighting in software?

What are the 3 types of healthcare lighting? 

In healthcare, the type and quality of light depends where it is and what it is used for. It’s common to use all three types of lighting in one room, and at different stages of the treatment process:

  • Accent / Decorative Lights – For waiting areas, office and hallways
  • Ambient or general lighting – For office and general examination areas
  • Task Lights – For surgical and treatment use, in addition to the ambient lighting

Who defines lighting in healthcare facilities?

Regional hospital lighting standards and building codes set the minimum illumination requirements for different areas in a hospital.  Your local government or healthcare administration may publish the hospital building code online. 

Task lighting for specific treatments and procedures may be governed by an ISO or IEC standard.

For example, ISO 9680:2021 Dentistry – Operating Lights specifies the requirements for optical requirements for a dental lamp. 

Some examples of illumination levels are:


Illumination (lux)

Waiting room ambient and accent lights


Examination room / office ambient


Cloudy day – Like Helsinki on Dec 21!  

  1,000 or less

Exam room local / ICU exam task light

5,000 - 15,000

Indirect sunlight  


Operation room surgical table task light

20,000 – 200,000

Direct daylight  

  100,000 / CRI 100

Focused light for small local areas

50,000 – 500,000


How is Light Quality Defined?

Three characteristics make up light quality:  


Illumination Intensity (Lux / lx) – the total amount of light that falls on a surface from a light source.  The source of the light is measured by luminous flux, in lumens.


Colour Temperature (Kelvin / K) – the warmth of the light, from yellow to blue.  


Colour Rendition Index (CRI) – the accuracy of the colour, or how natural the light is compared to sunlight. From 0-100, with sunlight CRI 100.  LED lights have a higher CRI than halogen lamps.







Tip: Lighting and colour quality are heavily related. Shade guides let a dentist explain to a laboratory the best colour match for a crown or prosthetic.  Shade guides are not standardized, and it is important that the dentist and laboratory have the same guide.     

What other characteristics affect the light and image quality? 

White Balance: Adjusting the colours so they look more natural. This is done by balancing the colour temperature, hue/tint (the shift from magenta to green) and saturation (colour intensity).


Brightness: How light or dark the image looks. This is done in a camera by adjusting exposure, or enhanced digitally in software. 






Task lights in particular may be designed to focus light or diffuse it over a larger area: 

Focused Light: Highly focused light to illuminate a smaller area for detailed work. Reflectors or lenses can be used to direct the light to a point.  For the best quality images, the focused light and the camera must point at the same location.

Shadowless / Diffused Light: Lights that illuminate a relatively large area with intense, diffused light and low contrast. Diffused light reduces eye strain and helps surgeons and autofocus cameras avoid high contrast distractions.


Can light quality be corrected in software? 

Yes, software can help correct lighting. 

Lighting can change with the time of day, weather and season. To compensate using software, look in the Futudent recording software in Camera Settings – Advanced Settings.  


Tip: We recommend changing the settings in top-down order, starting with brightness.  The reason is that the most common problems with lighting are brightness, contrast and hue. 

And if you want to go back to the default settings, just press β€œDefault”! 


Topics: Knowledge Base, Recording software, Dental Camera, digital dentistry, Dental Photography

Kirsty Happonen

Written by Kirsty Happonen

Kirsty is the quality and product compliance manager at Novocam Medical Innovations. She has worked in the dental equipment industry for over 10 years and enjoys a good research project.

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