I have an office in my basement. My desk is a table with a fluorescent light over it. My question: should my desk be parallel or perpendicular to the light for best lighting? Thank you for your time and attention to this question.Sincerely,Lou Sartori
If the light is over the table, you will probably get the most even light by having the light parallel to the table. If it is perpendicular to the table your body and objects will tend to cast more of a shadow. With the parallel arrangement you have more light hitting your workspace from different directions which will help keep shadows off your work surface. I’m assuming you are talking about a 3 or 4 foot fluorescent light bulb, but the same thing will hold for shorter bulbs–the difference will just be much less noticeable.
Personally I wouldn’t use fluorescent lights. If you get a good light you can avoid the “buzz” and with good bulbs the color can be decent, but I still prefer incandescent. If you want to get even lighting inexpensively, you can buy a couple clip on flood lamps and put them on either side of your desk. Just be sure to get a soft white bulb to try to keep the lighting diffused. If your desk faces a white wall, you can bounce the light off the wall and on to your workspace. That will give you a very even diffused light that comes from infront of you, so your hands don’t cast shadows on your work.
The above layout works well if you are mainly working with paper or flat objects on your desk. You will need to adjust things if you have equipment in the way (like a large monitor). You might consider bouncing the light off the ceiling and then off the wall to prevent a shadow directly in front of you. The nice thing about clip on lights is that you can easily move them around to get the best lighting. Be sure to consider the color of the wall and ceiling you are trying to bounce the light off of because it will change the color of the light.
In my office, I have incandescent bulbs in the ceiling that lights the whole room from behind me and a halogen desk lamp that lights my work from in front directly and indirectly by being bounced off the wall. The desk lamp takes away any shadows that are produced by the ceiling light. I also have a window covered with thin mini blinds that lets in diffused light most of the day.
On Fridays we publish questions from our readers. If you have a question you’d like to see answer here, please send it to [email protected].