What is Color Rendering Index (CRI) and Why Is It Important in Scene Lighting?

Have you had trouble identifying the blue from green wires while working on electrical equipment or missed evidence while documenting a crime scene due to its dark, remote location? This could be attributed to a low CRI level with your current lighting source.

Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. The index is measured from 0-100, with a complete 100 indicating that the colors of objects under the light source appear the same as they would under natural sunlight. CRIs under 80 are generally considered ‘poor’ while ranges over 90 are considered ‘great.’ High CRI LED lighting renders clear, vibrant tones across the full-color spectrum, making it a valuable tool for dark scenes, as fill to reduce contrast in photography, assist cameras in noise-free images, safety, and reduce the chance of damaging or corrupting a crime scene. They discussed how to use lighting and scanning systems together for achieving the most accurate forensic investigations.

Scene Lighting is any type of lighting that illuminates a larger area. It allows multiple people to work in an illuminated area under the same light or lights. Scene lights are critical for comprehensive, efficient and safe rescues, scene investigations, field maintenance and emergency and disaster response. High CRI Lighting is an essential tool that gives investigators the greatest ability to examine a scene thoroughly and recover all the evidence. 

Identifying CRI Ranges

When purchasing and using scene lights, we recommend a CRI of over 90 but also say in some instances, a minimum of 80 can be acceptable. Below is a brief explanation of the CRI ranges:

CRI 95 - 100 →  Phenomenal color rendering.

Colors appear as they should, subtle tones pop out and are accented, skin tones reflect natural lighting, shadows reduced in high contrast areas. Best used where natural colors need to be realistically represented.

CRI 90 - 95 → Great color rendering!

Almost all colors 'pop' and are easily distinguishable. Noticeably great lighting starts at a CRI of 90.

CRI 80 - 90 → Good color rendering

Good color rendering, where most colors are rendered well. You may not see items as fully saturated as you would like.

CRI Below 80 → Poor color rendering

Lighting with a CRI below 80 would be considered to have poor color rendering. Under this light, items and colors may look desaturated, dull, and at times unidentifiable (like being unable to see the difference between blue and green wires).

Good color rendering is key for proper scene lighting as it can transform a scene by highlighting details and creating a comfortable, natural overall feel. A source of light with a CRI above 90 will ensure that colors look exactly how they should, accurately rendered and appear crisper and brighter.  High CRI lighting is equally valuable in Fire/Rescue/EMS, Military, Industrial, Law Enforcement, Disaster Relief, Photo/Video, Drone Field Lighting, Portable Hospitals, Events, Broadcasting and more.

Which Scene Light is Best for Your Job?

We have designed or upgraded multiple scene lights to have a high CRI of 90 or above, which means that they do an excellent job rendering the colors of the items and spaces your team needs to illuminate. If documentation is part of your work, it is important to remember that camera sensors are more sensitive to color and luminance than the human eye. The camera sensor will show inadequacies in light CRI that our eyes don’t see.

On the top end of things, we have created a high CRI light for those who have very specific standards or for photography, or television work. The Nomad® Production Light Series has a CRI of 95 with two lumen options. Along with the production lights, our Nomad Series offers 360 degree lighting with a high CRI of 90.

Nomad® Series

Nomad® Production Series

Comparison of Low Versus High CRI Lights 

The unfortunate reality is that many crime and accident scenes happen in dark areas or occur at night. This makes it necessary to add lighting to illuminate a scene for investigation and photography. An investigator can’t photograph or collect what they can’t see. There are also multiple industries that operate within dark hours, especially during winter when days are shorter and nights are long. Below you will see a comparison between low CRI, a vehicles headlights and high CRI, a Nomad 360.

It is also important to consider Low versus High CRI lighting during the day where you may encounter shadows outside or while working inside dimly lit building. If photographing in bright daylight or in high contrast scenarios with shadowed areas, the camera sensor has a limited dynamic range to capture detail in both the bright highlights and dark shadows. Supplemental lighting can help to illuminate objects in the shadows and create a lower contrast scene that the camera’s dynamic range can capture. Below you will see an example where a critical piece of evidence needs a higher CRI to be properly photographed.


Proper Lighting to Keep People Safe

With many scenes occurring at night or in dark areas, correct lighting is essential to a safe, comprehensive and expeditious investigation. If you have questions on how CRI applies in your industry or job role, please contact a FoxFury lighting specialist, we are always available to assist you in selecting the right product for your needs.

Shop these High CRI & Forensic Lighting Products

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FoxFury builds portable LED headlamps, flashlights, shield lights, scene lights and area lights.

Our application-specific LED lights are used in firefighting, police, military, industrial safety, hazardous area, filming, and photography. 

FoxFury products are designed in California and manufactured with the highest quality USA and foreign parts.

*In-stock and online products only will ship within 24 business hours, unless weather or other outside situations delay processes.


FoxFury uses the newest LED technology from OSRAM and others. White light and multi-color / wavelength-specific forensic light sources (from UV to IR) are available.

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