Shadows - Indoor Vs. Outdoor Lighting

When it comes to the differences between indoor and outdoor lighting, the contrasts can be big; however, the principles and techniques will be the same based on our lighting objective.

One may think that lighting is lighting, and that any light is better than no light at all.  To some extent that is true.  Take emergency situations, for instance; if you need light, any light is good light… in the moment.  In exterior lighting, shadows can be a good thing when accenting plants onto a wall or side of a building.  This adds texture and depth to a design.  In an interior application, these types of shadows would not be desirable.  Using the example of a kitchen counter surface, if our overhead light source is behind us when we stand against the counter, our bodies will be casting a shadow on to our work surface.  However if the light source is in front of us, this would eliminate any shadows which will make our kitchen tasks much easier.  


Another example of good exterior shadows would be down lighting a tree.  The goal of down lighting is to emulate what the sun already does during the day. Recreating this look at night can add stunning beauty to an area. The lights mounted up in the tree will cast light through the lower branches creating small shadows on the ground.  These are good shadows and when the wind blows these shadows dance on the ground. 


If we had down lighting at a bathroom vanity, the sink would certainly be well lit, but the light source above our head will cast shadows on our face.  When applying makeup, shadows are not good. What is preferred is a light source slightly above our face casting light away from the mirror.  This ensures that our faces are evenly lit and when looking into a mirror we would find that there aren't any shadows. 


As you can see, there are vast differences in indoor vs outdoor lighting.  The methods are similar but the effects can be quite significant to a design and the overall lighting objective. 

Kevin SmithComment