residential outdoor lighting

Shadows are a common cause of fear for many. For some, this fear leaves with childhood. But others avoid shadows for the rest of their lives—especially if they’re afraid of hurting themselves in the darkness. 

That’s why homeowners equip their yards with outdoor lighting, a trend that is only growing. Landscape lighting isn’t just for functions such as increasing security or illuminating pathways, though. It also helps elevate the look of your home, turning it into a piece of functional art.

Part of this art is making the best use of shadows. In this article, the team at Unique Outdoor Illumination & Mosquito Pros shares how you can best use shadows to give your property a more dramatic appearance. 

Moonlighting to Create Intriguing Shadows

Moonlighting, named for the way it mimics the soft glow of a moonlit night, takes advantage of lights hung high up, such as in a tree or on a porch. The goal is to shine beams of light across branches or the outside of your home, diffusing it to create gentle shadows on the ground. The shadows follow the shape of the trees and move with their movement.

Googling “moonlighting for landscapes” will show you some epic examples of this technique in action. But be careful—there’s a world of difference between hanging a few lights in trees and installing moonlighting with a professional. Always work with an expert for the best results!

Creating Silhouettes

Silhouettes offer mysterious and appealing visuals for outdoor areas like gardens. Placing lights behind unique objects, such as a fountain or statue, creates a shadowy outline and visual intrigue. This technique serves another important purpose as well: it prevents light from shining directly into your guests’ eyes.

Shadowing Effect

huge tree with lighting up the branches

Shadowing is a great technique to highlight intricate details on your property. Simply place a light low to the ground and point it upwards to cast a larger-than-life shadow of that object onto the wall or fence behind it.

This technique also works well with ornate gates by casting light downwards to emphasize the patterns on the ground. If you’ve invested in landscape centerpieces, utilizing lighting to aid shadowing is a great way to make the most of them at night. 

Backlighting Technique

Backlighting highlights fixtures on the exterior of your home and casts their silhouette to create visual intrigue.

For example, if you have a hanging plant, you can attach a light to the back of it to showcase its details after dark. This can help highlight the beautiful greenery of the plant and allow for shadows to dance across the wall.

Using Uplighting to Highlight Foliage on the Trees

Many landscapes have a prized tree or two that ties the entire yard together. If you have a special tree on your property, uplighting can help show off the foliage or the underside of the canopy at night when the details would otherwise be lost.

This technique is particularly effective in the fall, when the leaves are their most vibrant. The shadows will create a contrast between the beautiful colors and intricate details of the foliage and the background. This technique can also be used for any plants you have with striking red or yellow branches in the winter.

Show Stonework and Brickwork Using the Grazing Technique

If you have a home that has a unique brick or stone work surface, you can show it off using the grazing approach. This technique is accomplished by placing a light at the base of an object, such as a house or detached unit, and pointing it straight up.

The result is a shadow that highlights the details and texture of the front of the home. This technique can also be used for a stone- or brick-retaining wall. It is a great way for homeowners to show off the beauty of their home’s architecture without shining bright lights directly in anyone’s face or window.

Pro tip: You can accomplish the same effect by mounting the lighting up high and casting it downwards. This works best for lights that are flush against the home’s surface, keeping the effect quite subtle.

Cross Lighting

backyard patio with lighting

Build drama for a fountain of sculpture by lighting it from both sides, creating clarity on dark nights. You can play with the position of the lights to cast interesting shadows in either direction, which is especially neat if your fountain is a distinct shape and its shadow falls onto a lawn or patio.

You can also use the Rembrandt Effect, which is when you light an object from only one side. It creates a sense of mystery by keeping the object mostly in darkness while casting its shadow across your property.  This is a wonderful technique if you have a lot of lawn or flat space to play with.

Elevate Your Outdoor Living Spaces With Dramatic Lighting

Hopefully these ideas for how to put shadows to use have given you some inspiration for your own yard. If you’d like a little more lighting inspiration, check out one of our favorite roundups of outdoor lighting ideas here.

Ready to elevate your home and yard? Our team would love to help you discuss the designs that might work for your backyard or garden, so give us a call to set up a visit or contact us today. Don’t wait any longer to turn your fear of the dark into the best aesthetic decision you’ve ever made!

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