Try a backlit picture frame and watch people light up.
By Arthur H. Bleich
have a short, dark, hallway with no overhead lighting nor any room
for a table with a lamp on it. It‚s been bugging me for years, especially
since there‚s some wall space at the end of it that would be a perfect
place to hang a photo.
does have an electrical outlet and I had thought about using a picture
frame light but they extend way out and cast reflections on the
glass. Then I thought about rigging some kind of shadow or light
box but it would be too bulky. If only, I kept thinking, someone
would make a picture frame that had lighting integrated into it.
someone has. While working on developing medical lasers, Dr. Ed
Sinofsky, an optical physicist, found a way to uniformly spread
light over a flat surface of any size and realized it would be perfect
for displaying pictures. He started PhotoGlow a year-and-a-half
ago and, as he puns, they‚ve been glowing great ever since.
frame is less than an inch thick, and uses a fiber-optic-like technology
that „spreadsš the light from the edges of the frame across the
entire surface resulting in an even, brilliant light source that
produces an output three to four times brighter than your computer
monitor while emitting very little heat. With 20,000 hours of bulb
life, you could run it continuously for over two years before needing
a replacement lighting element. I figured if I kept it on about
eight hours a day, I‚d get at least seven years before a new element
was needed and that‚s good enough for me.
ordered an 11x14-inch black wall-hung frame (from over a dozen models)
and it arrived very well-packed and in good shape. Actually the
frame size was 14x18-inches which, when fitted with a matte, ends
up with an opening of 10x13-inches for your image. Frames come in
silver, gold, and black; matte choices are white, antique white,
black, gray, and blue. I think dark mattes work better with backlit
pictures, but you may have other ideas. You can always get one cut
at a local picture frame store if none of the standard offerings
appeals to you or is not the right size for your picture.
are not included; they must be downloaded from PhotoGlow‚s site
and include lots of how-to photos so that nothing is left to chance.
There are also detailed printer settings to help you get the best
results. One of my initial concerns was that I would have to use
special backlit film (and buy more of it than I would ever use)
but you can order as little as ten sheets of paper from PhotoGlow
or print on various papers you already have. Since the image is
backlighted, the „grainš of the paper will show through, especially
with matte media. This will add a painterly feeling to some pictures
but it may not be appropriate for others.
I ended up outputting my images on Red River Ultra Pro Gloss using
an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer. After incrementally darkening
down a few initial test prints using the Variations menu of Photoshop,
I realized that more color saturation would be needed to offset
the brilliant backlight which tends to wash out color. PhotoGlow
suggests printing at 1440dpi, high speed, with a gamma setting of
2.2. To get the required color saturation, they advise setting the
Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow ink sliders to +15. This isn‚t rocket
science so you can start with their settings and then make further
adjustments, if necessary, in the printer driver or your imaging
program. To check your results, just hold the prints up against
the lighted frame to see which look best.
a well-lit room, most mages look fine without the backlighting,
just as if normally displayed under glass. But when the picture
is illuminated they, well, glow ų that‚s the most accurate description.
As for fading, due to exposure to bright light close-up and for
hours on end, PhotoGlow says it‚s negligible, especially if pigment
inks are used. But more than light can make prints fade: heat, humidity,
and ozone to name the main culprits. So I made a couple of extra
replacement prints and stored them in my „vaultšŲ a dark drawer
in an air-conditioned room.
with the PhotoGlow frame is a 120vACŲ12vDC power supply that plugs
into a wall outlet. Extending from the back of the picture frame
is about six feet of very thin wire with a cylindrical female connector
on the end. You turn the light on by plugging in a male connector
which is attached to wiring that runs to the power transformer.
If that sounds a bit primitive, you can leave it plugged in and
install a line switch at any convenient point in the wiring. I hate
dangling wires, so I‚m going to drill a small hole in the wall behind
the picture and another just above the baseboard and drop the wire
through the wall for a neater installation.
also makes a variety of Desktop Darlings, their lighted, standing
table frames that hold picture sizes up to 8x10 inches. And they‚ve
just begun to offer wood frames and made-to-order frame sizes. If
you want them to print your favorite photo, they‚ll do that too.
Their products are fully warranted for a year and start at just
$79; their best seller (the one I ordered) costs only $119.
pictures in a PhotoGlow frame gives them brilliance that‚s impossible
to achieve with reflected light. And I found it easy to change images
for variety. The lighted picture also makes a great nightlight for
houseguests and, at about 15 watts, it won‚t even make a blip on
my electric bill. But best of all, I no longer dread traversing
that dark, dingy hallway now that everything‚s glowing my way.
ŲArthur H. Bleich