Outdoor Lighting Techniques

June 13, 2016

Lighting is an art that deserves artistic thinking; it is not solely an exercise in technical expertise. Designing compelling and creative outdoor lighting is as much a science as it is an art form. Our lighting specialists are well versed in the art and science of compelling outdoor lighting techniques. Take a look at some of the lighting techniques used by the professionals at Light Up Nashville.

Some Favorite Outdoor Lighting Techniques

Downlighting or Moonlighting

Downlighting is achieved by illuminating an area or object from above. High mounting heights and wide beam spreads provide broad, uniform illumination. Lower mounting heights or narrow beam spreads can be used for accent lighting. Bullets and floodlights are the appropriate choice for downlighting outdoors since they can be mounted on structures or poles. Downlighting becomes “moonlighting” when easily adjustable, fully shielded bullet fixtures are placed high in trees, and aimed down through leaves and branches to produce soft, subtle shadow patterns on the ground in imitation of true moonlight. Below you can see a  great example of this moonlighting technique at a project we completed in Nashville.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - grass


This technique uses direct burial fixtures, well lights, and grade-mounted bullet fixtures which are aimed upward to illuminate trees, sculptures, walls, and flags. Uplights provide very dramatic effects because they generate light and shadows in the opposite direction of the sun and moon. This is a perfect technique for lighting a home's exterior, as shown below.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - uplight

Accent lighting

Using higher light levels, uplights or downlights can be used to accent key features and create focal points, by separating them from objects or areas of lesser importance. The ground-mounted up lights at the base of this fireplace make it stand out by lighting it from below, emphasizing a stunning piece of architecture which stands out from the rest of the property.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - fireplace


Projecting light onto an object and casting shadows onto the vertical surface behind that object will create a shadow effect, similar to moonlighting. The shadows from these palms creates a visually appealing backdrop to an outdoor space.



Lighting a vertical surface behind an object makes that object appear as a dark shape (in silhouette) against the lighter reflective surface.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - silhouette (1) (1)


Backlighting objects is perfect for accenting unique elements or features to your home. During the daylight, artistic pieces around your home add beauty and flair to your outdoor spaces. By adding backlighting, they need not disappear into the dark at night!

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - back lights (1) (1)


Light is aimed parallel to a surface to bring out its texture. The texture on this over 100-year-old home in Nashville is perfectly highlighted with uplights aimed parallel to the wall, grazing the beautiful brick and stone textures.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - grazing

Advanced Outdoor Lighting Techniques

Layered Lighting

Layered lighting is more than just a lighting concept; it's an artful approach to creating depth, ambiance, and functionality in your outdoor spaces. Just as you layer textures and colors in your landscaping, you can layer light to transform your outdoors into a multifaceted experience.

Imagine a softly lit pathway guiding you through a lush garden while gentle uplights accentuate a majestic tree's silhouette. Overhead string lights create a warm, inviting canopy above your outdoor dining area. This is the magic of layered lighting.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - Party place

By strategically combining different light sources, you achieve practical illumination and a captivating atmosphere. Path lights provide safe passage, while well-placed spotlights highlight architectural features. In the background, soft, diffuse lighting softly blankets the area, creating a comfortable and inviting setting.

Layered lighting isn't just about aesthetics; it's about versatility. You can transition seamlessly from intimate evenings to lively gatherings with the flick of a switch or a tap on your smartphone. Adjust the brightness, color, and positioning of lights to match the mood and occasion.

Whether you're seeking a cozy nook for relaxation or an expansive space for entertaining, layered lighting allows you to customize your outdoor environment. It's an artful balance of functionality and beauty, elevating your outdoor space to new heights.

Dynamic Lighting Scenes: Your Outdoor Space, Your Rules

Your outdoor space is more than a static setting; it's a canvas for creativity and expression. With dynamic lighting scenes, you have the power to orchestrate the perfect atmosphere for every occasion.

Imagine hosting an intimate dinner party under a canopy of stars, where soft, warm lighting embraces your guests. As the evening progresses, you seamlessly transition to a vibrant scene for dancing and celebration. Dynamic lighting scenes make it possible.

Smart lighting controls and automation technology put you in command of your outdoor environment. Create custom scenes for romantic dinners, lively gatherings, or tranquil evenings. You can adjust brightness, color, and even movement with a simple tap on your device.

For a touch of drama, incorporate gradual transitions. Watch as your landscape transforms from one scene to another, guiding the mood effortlessly. Dynamic lighting scenes offer endless possibilities, adapting to your preferences and the flow of your evening.

The key is flexibility. Whether you're enjoying a quiet night or throwing a festive event, dynamic lighting scenes empower you to set the stage precisely as you envision it. Your outdoor space becomes a versatile, ever-evolving masterpiece waiting for your command.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - Statue

Lighting Art and Sculptures

Art and sculptures breathe life into your outdoor spaces, adding character and personality. But why let them disappear into the dark when the sun sets? Lighting art and sculptures create a captivating focal point, making your outdoor area a gallery of creativity.

Imagine a striking sculpture that comes to life under the soft glow of strategically placed spotlights. Shadows play on its contours, revealing intricate details and evoking emotions. This is the magic of lighting art and sculptures.

You transform static pieces into dynamic works of art by carefully positioning lights. The interplay of light and shadow accentuates unique shapes, textures, and dimensions. Your outdoor space becomes a canvas, and its art becomes a masterpiece.

Artistic elements, such as statues, water features, or even custom-designed pieces, deserve the spotlight. Illuminate them with precision, allowing their beauty to shine through. These carefully orchestrated lights enhance the artwork and draw the eye, creating a captivating narrative within your outdoor space.

The result is an outdoor environment that is not just well-lit but also infused with creativity and inspiration. Lighting art and sculptures isn't just about visibility; it's about celebrating the artistic essence of your space. At Light Up Nashville, we take pride in being the outdoor lighting designer you can count on to showcase your sculptures and illuminate your creativity.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques - Special event (1) (1)

Lighting for Special Events

Special events call for extraordinary settings, and outdoor lighting can transform your space into a stage fit for any occasion. Whether you're hosting a romantic dinner, a festive party, or a memorable celebration, lighting can set the mood and make your event truly magical.

Imagine a garden transformed into a fairytale wonderland, with twinkling string lights weaving through trees and illuminating dining tables adorned with flickering candles. The soft, warm ambiance creates an enchanting atmosphere, perfect for intimate gatherings.

For livelier affairs, dynamic lighting scenes can energize your outdoor space. Transition from a serene dinner setting to a vibrant dance floor with a few taps on your smartphone. Watch as the lighting choreographs the evening's rhythm.

String lights, lanterns, and decorative fixtures offer endless possibilities for creating unique and unforgettable event spaces. Hang them overhead, drape them along pathways, or place them strategically around your outdoor area.

Outdoor lighting isn't just about practicality; it's about creating moments that last a lifetime. Lighting for special events allows you to tailor your outdoor space to the occasion, ensuring every celebration is bathed in the perfect glow.

By enhancing the beauty of your space with creative lighting, you elevate the entire event, leaving lasting memories for you and your guests.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your lighting needs, please feel free to request a free consultation online.

We’re a local business that has been lighting up Nashville since 2012. Our team has years of experience creating and installing unique and elegant outdoor lighting designs and providing maintenance and repair services to homes and businesses across Middle Tennessee. Our award-winning company has been voted 1st in Nashville House & Home for landscape lighting for four consecutive years and Best of Houzz for the last three years. 

Located in Goodlettsville, Light Up Nashville services Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Hendersonville, Gallatin, the surrounding areas and beyond.

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Tags: Outdoor Lighting

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