Lighting terminologies a landscape lighting designer must know

Landscape lighting is more than just illuminated outdoors. It is the art and science combined to achieve effective results. A good landscape lighting designer must have a sound understanding of the fundamentals of design, a lighting plan and an objective in mind. LEDs fall right in place when it comes to enhancing the beauty of a structure and their effectiveness vis-à-vis lighting capabilities. After all, we should add more light and not energy, right?


Numerous technical jargons come into play in the area of landscape lighting. Landscape lighting is a multifaceted effort and requires a thorough knowledge of both design and use cases. However, to ease the process for learners, we have curated a list of important terminologies to make them more technically sound.

Terminology – Popular Landscape Lighting Techniques

Silhouetting – Showcasing the outline of an object in restricted light against a brighter background. It is usually done by placing a spotlight behind an object to create an illuminated background on an adjacent wall. The dark outline formed is useful for displaying shapes of an individual object.

Highlighting – An area where light is most intense, and it is used to emphasize an object wholly. For example, it is used to highlight trees by placing spotlights at the base of the tree. The variation in angle and distance can highlight the particular area more prominently. It is typically used outdoors.

Wall-Washing – It is a technique that involves uniformly lighting a wall from top to bottom to create a smooth and flat surface. Wall-Washing hides most imperfections and blemishes by eliminating shadows. Usually, a flood light with a wide angle is recommended to create a soothing and even glow.

Alpha LED Floodlight | LF19 by Wipro

Accenting – This technique is used to focus light on a particular area or object. Typically used for highlighting artifacts, art, sculptures and statues. They are also utilized in the form of pathway lights to highlight gardens and paths. To be effective accent lighting should be approximately four or five times the level of ambient light in the room, area, or space.

Moonlighting and Downlighting – An outdoor lighting practice that simulates natural light by filtering it through an object such as a tree. A luminaire is placed directly high on a tree or an object to achieve a landscaping effect. Typically spotlight or floodlights are used for moonlighting, and downlights for downlighting.

Must-Know Terms used in Landscape Lighting

Common Product Terms

Bollard – A compact and sturdy outdoor luminaire with the light source located in the upper part. Bollards are typically used to light pathways.


Fantasy LED Bollard | CRLA11 by Wipro

Path Light – A luminaire used to light pathways or walkways. Essentially used for enhancing the aesthetics of a site and increasing visibility.


UrbanoLED Pathway | LP 06 by Wipro

Step Light – A luminaire precisely intended to illuminate stairs.

Common Technical Terms

CRI – Color Rendering Index is the measure of a light source ability to render colors accurately. The higher the CRI, the better is the rendering capability of a light source. It ranges from 1 (low-pressure sodium) to 100 (Sun).

Color Temperature – A characteristic of visible light, it is a measure of the color appearance of light and is typically classified into warm and cool color tones. It is measured in Kelvin (K). At low temperatures, the color tones are warm, and the appearance is more yellowish. The higher the color temperature, the cooler or bluish is the light source.

Cut-Off Angle – The angle measured from the base, between the vertical axis and the first line of sight at which the light source is not observable. An angle of 45 degrees or less is considered ‘sharp,’ and the light source is swiftly concealed as the observer moves away from a fixture. The cut-off angle is imperative when considering glare.

Diffused Light –Light that scatters in several directions to produce a beam with soft edges. It is also known as soft light as it lacks intensity and the glare of direct light. Diffused light wraps around objects and does not cast harsh shadows.

Glare – The discomforting visual sensation felt when a light source is significantly brighter than its surroundings. It is both direct and indirect.

IP Ratings – Ingress Protection (IP) ratings are used to define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against dust and moisture. They were developed by European Committee for Electro Technical Standardization and are globally implemented.

Lumen – The SI unit of measurement of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a light source. The higher the lumen, the more is the light produced by a light source.

Luminance – The intensity of light emitted from a surface per unit area in any given direction. It describes the quantity of light that passes through a zone. Instead of brightness, luminance is used by landscape lighting designers as it can be measured and predicted.

Reflected Light – It is the light that bounces off a surface. For example, in pathway lighting, the light is reflected on the path, plants, and walls.

Refracted Light – The bending of light when it passes through a medium. For example, the lens of a flood light bends the light and widens its throw.

UV Radiation – An electromagnetic radiation which has a wavelength between 100nm to 400nm. These high-frequency emissions are known to damage the living tissue. LED luminaires typically do not emit ultraviolet rays.

The ongoing innovations in lighting technology are leading corporations to develop new products for our wellbeing. The lighting industry is undergoing a massive shift, and currently, more businesses and designers are switching to LEDs for its advantages. Lighting up outdoors with LEDs accomplishes the necessary characteristics of energy efficiency and aesthetics.