Lighting Designer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotLighting designers or technicians can choose to specialize in a number of areas. Most people probably think in terms of the theater, TV or films. Another area is architectural lighting. It can include commercial, industrial and residential buildings. Parking lots and landscapes need lighting designers and technicians as well. Lighting professionals may even choose to design lighting products.

dotAccording to the International Association of Lighting Designers' website, people in this field:

  • Select cost- and energy-efficient lighting
  • Know how to use lights to create the right look and atmosphere
  • Know how to arrange lights to make an area more functional

dotLighting design is an extremely complicated profession. "Math is very important. You are always dealing with measuring distances, adding up material costs and working the numbers to get the job," says Andrew Lee.

"As a lighting designer and lighting console programmer, I believe the most important quality is a sense of timing," says Kimberly Martin of San Francisco. "Programming the lighting 'looks' to fade from one to another in scenes, music, etc., is something you won't know you have until you do it a few times."

dotLinda Essig is a professor of lighting design in the theater department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She says that reading and analyzing plays is part of her day-to-day work.

"I do research for every project that might include historical and dramaturgical research, as well as visual research. There are always a lot of meetings. Of course, some time is spent actually working out what the lighting compositions will look like and choosing color."

Lighting designers may be employed in full-time positions with lighting companies.

Many other workers are freelancers, particularly in theater.

dotExpect to work unusual hours. You'll need to be on site during productions. You can seek employment at local events, which wouldn't require much travel. But if you work for a rock band or touring theater group, expect to spend a lot of time away from home.

At a Glance

Decide how things will be lit

  • You can specialize in theater or architectural lighting, for instance
  • Many of these workers are freelancers
  • Engineering and theater degrees are both good