How Lighting Affects the Color of Rugs

I recently did a whole story on my Instagram regarding lighting, but I felt this topic was important enough to also do a blog post that could be easily referenced. 

Lighting and Rugs! I sometimes get asked if I edit my photos that are posted of the rugs on my website listings. I want to start this by saying NEVER. I know they say never say never, but no really, NEVER. I do not add presets, filters, extra artificial lighting, photoshop, none of these. I take all my listing photos on my Iphone 12 and at MOST increase the exposure on an image if its a gloomy day. 

I also try to always do either indoor or outdoor natural day lighting for all rugs. This does not mean the colors won't look different at night, and I will get to that, but I try to stay consistent with one type of lighting to help you feel like this is the style of photo I always take. 

Now lets talk about types of lighting.


Daylight in itself can create a range of colors. Outdoor (12-2 depending on where you live) direct bright sunlight is very very bright. A photo under that will wash out most rugs and make the colors appear a bit too bright. None of us have that kind of light in our homes and I feel like its not representing the rug best. 

Golden hour which most people love for portrait photography is about an hour before sunset. This light is a little cooler and sometimes makes certain colors such as blues very vibrant. It is still better than harsh daylight as its closer to true colors. I find that about an hour and half before the sun is too slanted, but after it stops creating too many shadows gives a great light for rugs. 

Overcast or a cloudy day is my personal favorite. Daylight on overcast days is perfect at anytime for outdoor photos of rugs. Reason being, the light is now "filtered" by the clouds. So the harshness you would have had at noon, no longer an issue! (Of course overcast usually brings rain which is a whole other issues for photos)


Outdoor noon light makes this runner appear more warm toned and red

Indoor daylight reflecting the true tones of this muted wool runner


Indoor lighting is really about daytime natural light versus artificial lighting use. Of course indoor daytime lighting is most accurate. Even if we do not have the best lighting, it will represent the rug most accurately. So lets talk about artificial lighting instead. For example a bathroom that does not have a window. No matter the time of day, this space will be affected by the artificial lighting that is used. Whether the light is a lamp light or overhead, whether it is more yellow tone or white, LED or not. All of these affect the tones that can come out in your rug. I personally find that staying in the 3000K range on the light bulb setting gives you the best lighting for bathrooms and kitchens and photographs pretty well. I will go down to 2700k in bedrooms to add that warm yellow light that feels cozy but photographs poorly FYI.

In general we avoid taking photos in the evening, but if asked we have LED daylight recessed lighting installed to give a similar light as daytime when needing to take extra photos or videos of rugs. 


The soft blue appears more deep with artificial lighting than with daylight


Last but not least, each rug is different! All of our rugs have a wool pile. However, they are different thickness and softness and most importantly colors. Some blues appear black, some red appears rust etc. Most wool is naturally an off white. You can almost always count on the "white" part of the rug to be an off white-cream color all the way to a sandy beige. This is the natural color of wool and to get the wool to be a pure white would require bleaching. Wool does not do bleach well and bleaching is harsh on the fibers, ruining its integrity. Distant photos of rugs will give an overall look of how the rug might appear to the eye, but up close the white that was appearing in the living room photo might actually be beige! 

Also depending on the type of wool used, some have a natural sheen. This sheen much like human hair, reflects light, so what appears like black hair indoors but looks brown outdoors is the same for certain colors in a wool rug with carpet sheen. This reflection of light can affect what we see on a photo.

Though this rug appears to be almost black with white in the center, its truly a navy with cream!


Finally always keep in mind the background floor color that you are going to be placing your rug on. It can make a huge difference especially in lighter colored rugs! If your floor is a pure white such as marble, light colored rugs might read very "yellow" in comparison. However if you place the same rug on a wood floor it will read off white or white almost! Dark moody rugs paired with dark floors do not have much contrast, therefore will not look as bright as a dark rug on a medium-light color floor.

My advise to clients usually is to pair colored rugs that do not have a lot of cream color in the border with light especially white floors, and to pair light colored muted rugs with wood floors.

Image from Heidi Caillier Design

Last but not least, as always do not hesitate to message me if you want to see more pictures or videos of a certain rug! I am always here to try and help you make the most informed decision when purchasing from KOR.


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