What’s the Difference: Outdoor Downlighting vs. Uplighting

If you’re looking to improve your outdoor lighting in Raleigh, NC or any of our other service areas, you should first understand what kind of lights suit your landscape the best. In particular, you’ll want to understand the differences between downlighting and uplighting and what these designs can bring to your home. Here’s what you should know.


For uplighting, lights are mounted below or on the ground so that the light can shine upwards to add interesting visuals to your home. In particular, uplighting is often used to illuminate trees to show off their bark, branch structure, or interesting and colorful leaves.

For its use in architecture, uplighting creates a dramatic effect, casting long shadows across walls and highlighting the best parts of your home. You can compare uplighting to the dramatic lighting of noir films to create interesting visuals and draw the eyes of the viewers. You’ll most often find uplighting used around columns to highlight them as a feature of the home and to create long dramatic shadows across the property.


The biggest difference between outdoor downlighting versus uplighting is that downlighting is often considered the more practical solution. Situated in high-up places, such as trees or beneath your home’s eaves, downlighting aims to flood as wide an area as possible with light.

Some great ways to use downlighting are to show off gardens and landscaping or to provide a comfortable environment for outdoor seating once the sun has gone down. A good trick with downlighting is to place lights under benches and seating walls to cast a soft, subtle light along pathways and patios.


When considering your options, you’ll likely encounter the term “moonlighting.” This is another form of downlighting that aims to replicate, as the name suggests, moonlight. Moonlighting is an effective and natural-looking way to illuminate an area without being overbearing and creates shadow patterns across the ground from the trees and leaves the lights are situated in.