Lighting The Way: Tips For Outdoor Lighting

There’s no better way to enjoy a summer night than in the comfort of your own yard with friends and family. Here in the temperant Midwest, we have to take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors before the cold arrives. That means gatherings will undoubtedly go long after the sun goes down,  which means you’ll need ideal lighting solutions for your outdoor gathering space.


Finding the right outdoor lighting can be a bit tricky. It may seem like a simple project, but the right lighting can revolutionize your space and set the stage for some incredible nights. Depending on your landscape structure, goals, budget, and taste — there are a ton of options you can choose from.


However, outdoor lights aren’t just for gatherings. There are a lot of functions outdoor lights serve such as security or illuminating a pathway.


Before you go out and start buying all of the lights you see on Pinterest or your neighbor’s backyard, there are key aspects you need to take into consideration about the objectives you are trying to accomplish.


  1. What type of area are you lighting?
  2. What’s the functionality you are going for?
  3. What style do you prefer?


These are the three main variables you should mull over before diving head first into a purchase. While there are definitely some other factors to consider, these three should light the way (no pun intended) for your outdoor lighting choices.


Where To Start

As we said, figuring out exactly where you’ll be lighting, why you’re lighting it, and the overall look you’re going for is a great place to begin.


Are you looking to illuminate a pathway? Are you trying to shine a light on a deck or patio? Is the lighting solution you are seeking for security? All of these are questions you need to ask yourself before getting started. While some styles may have the ideal appeal — they may not fit the function you’re looking for.


The foundation of your decision should be functionality, from there you can make a more informed choice about the style you’re going for. It can be tempting to pick out some truly unique and stylistic options. However, if these choices collide with the purpose of your lighting, it can come back to bite you in the long run.


There are essentially five types of lighting that you’ll be choosing from.


Safety and Security Lighting


Decorative Lighting


Path Lighting


Landscape Lighting


These five categories will ultimately influence your selection the most and help narrow down your decision-making process. We’re going to go through all five and give you some basic tips to help guide your choices to create the very best solution possible. There is some rollover with the types of lights you can use for each of these categories. So, if you’re looking for a multi-faceted solution — there may be some great choices for you to go with.


Safety Lighting

For those that are looking to improve the security of their home with lights, these are the outdoor lights for you. Not only do these provide peace of mind, but are also practical for guiding guests or family members once they arrive at your home — or are turning in for the night after a gathering.


The ideal security lights have motion sensors that activate whenever someone comes near them. You can add some customization with timers or implement dusk to dawn lights that turn on and off depending on the amount of natural light they sense. You can even add solar lights. Not only are these great for the environment but are a great failsafe in case you forget to turn them off.


These are typically in the same category as floodlights, as these can impede intruders while also lighting dark areas like garages or stairwells. These should be placed fairly high up so that they aren’t easily accessible and cast a larger amount of light.


Places to use safety or flood lighting:


  • Garages
  • Walkways
  • Backyard


Decorative Lighting

If you’re really looking to transform your outdoor space into the perfect summer getaway, decorative lights can deliver the look and feel you want. Depending on what type of style you’re going for there are quite a few options you can install.

  • Rope lights
  • Post lights
  • String lights
  • Hanging lights
  • Lanterns
  • Fire effect lights


All of these bring a significantly different feel and can be mixed and matched to create something unique. While pathway lights are technically in a class of their own, stylistic walkway or driveway lights can be considered decorative. We recommend staggering them, a little bit of asymmetry will keep it from looking too stale.

Places to use decorative lighting:


  • Patios
  • Pool
  • Front door
  • Porch


Path/Walkway Lighting

Leading guests with light can bring a sense of warmth and comfort to your home. There is a wide variety of styles to choose from and many of them are low energy LED lights. These are great for saving on your electricity bill and can be coupled with timers so that you’re only lighting when you need to.


Pathway lights can be used anywhere you want to guide people. Sidewalks, driveways, patios, porches, walkways, rock gardens, backyards — you name it.


Places to use walkway lighting:


  • Driveway
  • Pathways
  • Gardens


Landscape/Garden Lighting

Add light fixtures to bring attention to your incredible landscaping efforts. Outdoor wall lights or post lights can flood impressive landscape displays with light so that they are just as magnificent at night. Wall or inside ceiling lights offer a great way to show off the beautiful architecture of your home.


Flush mounted lights offer a stylistic way to light up stairs or pathways — possibly even railings without worrying about damage. And weather sealed well lights can help you accentuate your plantings or shrubbery.


There are a ton of options for illuminating your landscape features — finding the right one just takes some time and a bit of guidance.


Places to use landscape lighting:


  • Gardens
  • Walkways
  • Plantings