Enhance Your Landscape by Lighting it Right

Many of us who own a home have put some work into making our front or back yard look nice because it is what people see most.

It seems an extension of ourselves, so we put plants, trees, and paths in the ground, perhaps place statues, arbors and other ornamentation.

However, without proper consideration for outdoor lighting, all that work can wash into obscurity as the sun falls. As artists know, lighting is a crucial element of the visual effect of an object.

Here are some lighting techniques that can give your hard work its due recognition by bringing objects in your yard to life.

Up Lighting

If vegetation is a prominent feature of your yard, you may want to start with up lighting. This technique is often used to accent the lower part trees or plants or sometimes an arbor or covering. The effect is achieved typically by placing a spotlight or floodlight on the ground and aiming it either directly up or angled up toward the object of interest.

Down Lighting

Essentially the opposite of up lighting and often called “moon lighting,” this technique accents the higher parts of the object and also casts distinct shadows on the ground.

It involves either mounting the light above an object or high within the object (typically a tree in this case). It is called moonlighting because it is often used to mimic the celestial object by not only softening the light with the obstruction of foliage, but also drawing attention to the branches shadows cast on the ground.

This can often create the most beautiful aesthetic in a yard.

Silhouette Lighting

This technique is used to dramatic effect by placing the light behind the object and projecting toward the front, creating a silhouette of the object.

This is typically done next to a background fixture such as the house itself or sometimes a fence as it enhances the overall aesthetic of that fixture.

Keep in mind that what you are really bringing out in the object is its shape, so you may want to consider another technique if you would rather bring out its color and texture.


Opposite to silhouette lighting, this type of lighting points the light toward your object from the front, which means that the light will probably be on the ground and angled up. This has the benefit of bringing out all the detail of the object, but the focus is on casting an artful shadow on a backdrop.

Grazing Light

A slight variation of these other types of lighting (typically up lighting or down lighting), this technique is used to accent marginal features of an object.

Though it involves more careful angling, the idea is to touch the edge of an object so that you are highlighting an object in such a way that it brings out elements of texture as well as shape of the object.

This is great when you are having trouble figuring out which element of the object you like more.

Applying one or more of these techniques in your yard can make a big difference.

If you having a hard time coming up with a good setup, one thing you can do is get a good hand held spotlight (preferably cordless) and experiment with the different lighting techniques. If you like what is in your yard, chances are you’ll find a fresh way to enhance its appeal with light.

Ross Donald is a freelance writer and has always loved anything to do with houses, homes and humble abodes. He’s a stay at home dad, a blogger and a chronic DIY’er.

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