Landscaper vs professional lighting designer

What’s The Difference Between A Landscaper Doing Your Lighting And An Outdoor Lighting Designer?


A landscaper who does outdoor lighting is an altogether different creature than an outdoor lighting designer. Nevertheless, although these two professionals each have different skill sets and distinct areas of expertise, the services they perform do dovetail and overlap with each other. 

In the best of worlds, a landscaper who doesn’t do landscape lighting works closely with an outdoor lighting designer to achieve the balanced, pleasing and harmonious landscape of your dreams. 


What Is a Landscaper?

A good landscaper will make order out of chaos on your grounds. An exceptional landscaper will create a space that’s beautiful to behold regardless of season. Good landscaping will complement your house and accentuate its natural aesthetics and unique elegance. 

For many people, a home’s landscaping is considered a reflection of the inside of a house. Landscapers can fashion gardens of breathtaking color, encourage plants to grow, groom shrubs, fertilize grass and keep lawns healthy, vibrant and green. 

Landscaping professionals typically perform both landscaping and hardscaping services. Hardscaping services include keeping driveways, walkways and patios free of leaves, twigs, ice, snow and other debris. By contrast, landscaping involves lawns and gardens only. 

In addition to the maintenance of eye-pleasing grounds, the lighting installed by landscapers tends to be functional and practical rather than artistic. It can include spotlights and backyard lighting that turns on when it detects movement on the property. Landscapers can also install and maintain sprinkler systems.

Landscapers are not equipped to perform complex outdoor lighting installations. They are not credentialed. They learn by trial and error. 

There are no entry requirements for landscapers. The best ones have extensive experience and impeccable references. They do not need a degree to make your grounds look fabulous. 

But if you hire the same landscaper to install an outdoor lighting system with little or no knowledge of how it’s done, you are unlikely to be pleased with the result. Expecting that landscaper to make a complex lighting system look as fabulous as your landscaping is unrealistic at best and foolhardy at worst. 

Landscaper lighting

What Is a Landscaper Who Does Outdoor Lighting?

By some estimates, up to 90% of landscapers got started by mowing lawns and trimming hedges in the neighborhood while still in high school. Some landscapers are able to acquire basic outdoor lighting skills in the course of their careers. 

It’s easy to open a landscaping business. Startup costs are minimal. All you need is a lawn mower, a hedge trimmer and some business cards. If you hire fly-by-night landscapers to design and install your outdoor lighting, you are asking for trouble. 

Regardless of how competent a landscaper who does outdoor lighting seems to be, they are still basically grass cutters who have learned a few lighting tricks along the way. In all fairness, many landscapers go on to acquire the necessary credentials to become professional outdoor lighting designers. 

Even though a landscaper does a bang-up job on your lawn and shrubs, trusting them with an expensive outdoor lighting project intended to raise your property value and excite your senses is a risky investment.

When inflation is draining your grocery money, it’s tempting to cut corners. Many homeowners believe that general landscaping services include landscape lighting. Breathtaking landscape lighting isn’t cheap, so when your landscaper offers to install outdoor lighting at a considerably lower price, you might be tempted to take the offer and cut your costs. 

In an environment of scarcity, it’s easy to take advantage of people. A landscaper who also does outdoor lighting will claim to have all the knowledge and expertise necessary to install outdoor landscape lighting. Just remember that you’ll get what you pay for. 

With this type of landscaper, your outdoor lighting vision is likely to dissolve in a puff of smoke. Meanwhile, you may be left with a hefty bill for damages. Most homeowners ultimately decide that they should have hired a landscape lighting designer instead. 


What Is an Outdoor Lighting Designer?

Many outdoor lighting designers got their start in the business of landscaping. Many were once simple grass cutters who worked the neighborhood after school and on weekends. They are an industrious breed, and they’re not afraid of hard work. 

The difference between landscapers who install outdoor lighting and outdoor lighting designers is one of training, certification, education, experience, skill and talent. 

A landscape lighting designer can guarantee that your project will be completed by a team of specialists with verifiable expertise. Things are unlikely to go wrong along the way. Glitches are minimized. Most important of all, a team of professional landscape lighting experts can increase the value of your home and jump-start curbside appeal. 

Outdoor lights can draw the eye to the unique aesthetics of a home in a subtle yet irresistible way. Artful lighting will welcome visitors with a warm and inviting glow. It can make you feel good whenever you look at it. Beauty is good for the soul, and skilled landscape lighting designers specialize in the creation of beauty. 

Outdoor lighting designers can increase your home’s living space. Strategically placed lights can be used to create outdoor kitchens, sitting areas, patio areas and pools. You can spend time outside after dark and feel comfortable doing it. 

Additional illumination can add another level of safety to your property. Lighting can be used to increase the safety of your walkways and stairways. Enhanced area lighting in the dark areas of your property can discourage would-be trespassers, thieves, vandals and burglars from paying a visit. 

Landscape lighting can be used to accent lawn decor like statuary, koi ponds and other hardscaping. Bathe your favorite trees in a soft glow or take artfully pruned shrubbery to a new level with barely there lighting. The goal of a landscape lighting designer is always to combine functionality, beauty and safety. 

What About DIY Landscape Lighting?

If you are an experienced electrician with some knowledge of outdoor lighting and nothing better to do, you might have considered a do-it-yourself landscape lighting project. We do not recommend it. 

If something goes wrong, it’s your problem, your eyesore and your loss. If you hire a qualified landscape designer to do it right, you could save yourself thousands of dollars and unimaginable aggravation. 

stump lights 2

How Outdoor Lighting Designers Create Stunning Visuals

Landscape lighting designers use a variety of tricks, techniques and trade secrets to achieve 100% unique visuals. Designs are developed with plenty of homeowner input. You can be certain that the finished product will be a masterpiece. 

Experienced outdoor lighting designers typically combine these lighting techniques to create potent, dynamic and robust lighting tableaux: 

  • Uplighting: Uplighting comes from below, so dark shadows are contrasted with bright light. This technique has a striking, high-impact effect on tall structures like columns and trees.
  • Downlighting: This technique delivers soft and dreamy lighting that typically shines downward from a large, over-branched tree. Downlighting is also called moon glow and moon lighting. A stone bench or loveseat beneath the tree can enhance the romantic ambiance.
  • Cross-lighting: A single focal point receives light from both sides. This maneuver banishes shadows and makes the focal point “pop.” Designers use cross-lighting to highlight objects with odd shapes that would create unattractive shadows if lit from above or below.
  • Grazing: This kind of lighting works well with stonework, brick and stucco. It can be used to illuminate the texture of a structure.
  • Underground lights: Also called in-ground lighting, below-ground lights are built into walkways to light the way and add a bit of charm to the design.
  • Shadowing: Using shadowing techniques, a lighting designer can highlight the textures and shapes of island plant beds.
  • Silhouetting: This approach can focus the eye on engaging shapes by illuminating those objects from behind.
  • Mirror lighting: Mirror lights are used to light up a background scene so that it reflects on a body of water. The water’s reflective surface creates a sense of calm and peace.
  • Underwater lighting: For a serene and tranquil atmosphere, a landscape lighting designer might illuminate flowing water in fountains, streams and waterfalls.

Designer landscape lighting is a hassle-free and cost-effective way to take your property from modest to magnificent. Visit Washington Outdoor Lighting to view our portfolio and meet our talented outdoor lighting design team.


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