How to Improve Your Outdoor Space With Lights

Exterior lighting brings life to any outdoor space. Whether using light installations for security, landscape, or dramatic effect, outdoor lights can transform the viewer’s perspective of a building or a pathway. Identifying how different outdoor lights can merge with a building or property is essential. By realizing the play between light and dark, you can use this contrast and shadows to your advantage and create inspiring and fascinating spaces.

The primary basis when considering outdoor lighting is by establishing the primary design goal. Are you looking to identify key features, bring life to dull spaces, set security like security roof hatches, or create a well-lit path and entryway? Exterior fixtures can highlight a building’s architectural features and draw attention to any object and greenery. 

You can quickly identify the illumination you need from task lighting for security and ambient string lights for outdoor parties by understanding your lighting plan’s different types of light fixtures.

Areas to Light In Your Landscape

So which areas do you illuminate, and which ones should be in the dark? Here are three factors to consider:

  • Identify the features outside your home or building that you want to highlight.
  • Add drama and intrigue to areas or objects that might not stand out during the day. Simple things like stone can take a whole new personality when grazed with light and shadow.
  • Consider functionality when planning. A deck with stairs or a curved pathway needs proper lighting for safety reasons.

Outdoor lighting intends to highlight and see the effect of the light, not the source itself. The only exception is path lighting designed as decoration. Always remember that a well-lit property creates a warm and welcoming curb appeal.

Types of Outdoor Lighting

Now that you know which areas to illuminate, how will you do it, and which lighting will you use? You want to get familiar with a few basic fixtures when making our lighting plan. Here are the types of exterior lighting you might find in a landscape.

Spotlights / Floodlights

The variation between spotlights and floodlights comes down to beam spread. Spotlights project a concentrated, 45 degree angled tapered beam of light. It is ideal for highlighting specific display areas, architecture details, and landscape features since it is easier to aim and adjust.

Floodlights, on the other hand, emit a wider beam spread up to 120 degrees. If you are planning to illuminate general areas like a driveway or lot, install a floodlight. It is generally better in ensuring overall safety and visibility.

Inground Lighting

As the name suggests, an inground or well light is usually a circle-shaped fixture that installs directly to the ground to illuminate walkways and driveways. Inground lighting is exceptional for adding elegance and drama to your landscape due to its uplight effect that highlights trees or structures. It is a robust lighting solution that can efficiently silhouette objects around your yard.

Inground light is also a reliable light source on driveways for safer navigation through gates and lot areas. They have the proper vehicular weight ratings to support vehicles that drive over them. It is best to select the LED option as they have crisp color temperatures that look exceptional in the dark and a unit with ample weight sustainability.

Outdoor Post Lights

Installing post lights is an excellent way to accent the pathway and set an ambient atmosphere without the overpowering radiance of floodlights. Tall posts are ideal for lighting up driveways and extended stretched areas, while their shorter counterpart works well for paths and small corners.

To determine how many light posts you need, measure the diameter that the light encompasses around the base. Then, set the next fixture outside that space to establish the proper placement while the light function will let you know if it’s in the right place. Doing so will help prevent your landscape from looking like an airport runway. 

Path Lighting

Path lights are the most common outdoor fixture that is usual in all landscapes. Like post light, they create light markers that run down a line but are shorter and smaller. They can dramatically improve curb appeal and ensure safety.

Despite being generally small in size, path lights still offer a wide variety of measurements and heights. For an excellent, even glow, install path lights at about 14-inches high. It also needs to be within a foot from the sides of a pathway. You also need to choose a light that is sturdy enough to endure corrosion and wear.

How to Light a Landscape

With a wide selection of external lights available, the options seem to be virtually endless. It may be overwhelming, but the best thing to do is narrow down your options based on your lighting plan and scope out your yard using a high-powered flashlight with a dimming optic. Go outside and play with the light to see what looks best. 

Up Lighting

Uplighting is primarily used to accent architectural pieces, greenery, and safe passage to dark stairs and deck. You may also up light stone walls and entertainment spaces to efficiently create a dramatic effect.


Nothing exudes drama better than creating silhouettes. Place the light fixture behind any object you want to highlight and light towards the main vantage point to conceal the light source properly.


You can achieve this lighting method by placing the light source between the main vantage point, and the illuminated object with the source pointed towards the thing. The shadow method is ideal for having a wall or flat surface behind the illuminated item to catch the shadows created. 

Moon Lighting

If you have large trees all over the landscape, moonlighting is an exceptional technique to highlight them. Install the light source in the tree aimed down, grazing through the branches and the ground below the tree. 


Grazing is an excellent choice if you have a hardscape-heavy yard. It involves placing the fixture close to the flat surface and aiming directly up or down to create marvelous light and shadow play. You can graze the lights up or down, but the goal is to take advantage of the texture across a flat surface, so uneven or irregular patterns work best. 


Certain areas in your landscape may require more ambient lighting. To produce a well-lit space, try flooding a large wall or hedge in the area you wish to illuminate more with light to ideally “wash” the room with light. A wide-beamed light is an excellent choice for this technique as long as you place the light between the primary viewpoint and the surface to cast an even, gentle glow over the whole area.

Lighting can transform a landscape and how people perceive it from the outside. Whether you’re working with a lighting or landscape professional, you must have a basic idea of illuminating walls and accents to create your desired impact.

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