What is Direct & Indirect Lighting

In the world of light fixtures, most consumers have questions about certain terms or aspects. When it comes to direct versus indirect lighting, most consumers have questions about this important lighting matter. What is direct and indirect lighting? How do you know when to use one over the other? Let’s take a closer look at these questions to help you make the right lighting choice for your situation!

What is direct and indirect lighting?

Many people confuse the matter of direct/indirect lighting with the matter of uplight/downlight. While the two are often related, they are actually separate aspects worth noting. Direct lighting is when the majority of the light spread of a fixture falls on a specific object or area. Direct light is usually found in downlight fixture types, but can be in select uplight models, depending on the scenario. Indirect light is the light spread that lands outside of the direct scope and lights objects other than those in the direct illumination spread. The term indirect lighting can also be applied to lighting fixtures where the light is cast upwards in an uplight design since the light is naturally cast upward to the ceiling and walls instead of specific objects.

When to use Direct

A direct lighting fixture is ideal for a range of purposes where focused illumination is required. Direct lighting can be seen in many forms such as overhead general lighting solutions to task lighting aimed at a specific workspace. The main goal of direct lighting is to provide strong illumination to aid in visibility of tasks or create a bright general lighting plan.

When to Use Indirect

While you may end up with some unintentional indirect lighting, depending on the type of fixture and where it’s placed, indirect lighting can also be a conscious choice you decide to use in a space. The most common application of indirect lighting is for the purpose of ambiance lighting. It can also be used to help balance out the stark lines of light and general harshness of brighter direct lighting solutions. It is a great source for adding more lumens to a room without creating harsh effects of adding additional direct lighting solutions.

What about both?

Another reason this topic can be somewhat confusing is because many fixtures offer a little bit of both downlight and uplight which many think of in terms of indirect/direct lighting. However, it is important to note that while the matters are similar, they are different in overall function. A fixture can give mostly downlight, such as a wall sconce with downcast light, and still not be considered a direct lighting solution because it doesn’t cast light directly on an object, act as general lighting, or provide illumination for a specific task to be considered a direct light fixture. It is important to remember that the scope of the illumination and where it falls determines whether the light is direct or indirect.