One increasingly popular option for home security systems is the addition of hardwired or wireless security cameras. Small, sleek, and user-friendly, these cameras typically integrate with your home PC or any other smart device, enabling you to remotely control and intuitively manage a network of linked security cameras.
This is undeniably an attractive option for many people, but what these kits have in user-friendliness is oftentimes overshadowed by the user’s lack of expertise in placing them, especially with regards to exterior lighting.
What is the best way to position your security cameras near exterior lights?
Though it is not difficult, installers must be cautious that exterior lights (or the sun) don’t shine directly into the lens, and don’t bounce light off of any reflective surface into it. Failing to account for this will reduce effectiveness, and degrade image quality.
There are also concerns that cheaper cameras may not be able to effectively peer into the deep shadows cast by bright exterior lighting.
You don’t need to be a home security expert to benefit from these camera systems, but it would be in your best interest to brush up on best practices if you want to get the most bang for your buck, and avoid blind spots in your surveillance system.
In the rest of this article we will tell you more.
Correct Placement is Essential for Effectiveness
If you decide to install security cameras around your home it is imperative that they be correctly placed, oriented and aimed in order for them to be effective. This includes proper coordination and deconfliction with any and all exterior light sources around the home.
Failing to do this means you are just engaging and security theater, and theater is rarely a good defense.
Your security cameras have a job to do, and that job is surveilling the various approaches to your home as well as all exterior access points, including windows that are large enough to accommodate an intruder.
Taking care of this using the minimum number of cameras is not always easy depending on terrain features and the shape and style of your house.
But security is a thinking man’s game, and there are other factors to consider aside from placement and aiming.
The security cameras must be placed in such a way they are reasonably protected from weather but also protected from anybody who would tamper with them, either knocking them off your intended viewpoint or disabling them entirely. The other big one, as indicated by this article’s title, is lighting.
There are all kinds of light sources that can harm, or help, your security cameras do their job, and also make your home less appealing to burglars or home invaders.
You’ll need to account for lights not only on your home but also public light sources such as street lamps, and even the lights on neighboring homes or buildings.
Bad or Improper Lighting Can Interfere with Security Cameras
Lighting is necessary for proper visualization or recording of an image through a security camera, but if you are dealing with bad light or have improperly set up the light and camera relationship around your house what you’ll get instead are poor or even completely worthless images.
The chief offender is bright light that is directly entering the camera’s lens. This results in washout. Have you ever used a digital camera or even your phone’s camera, and picked up too much sun or even a car’s headlights shining into the lens?
Did you notice how it turned the resulting picture into a muddy, washed out mess, and even made it difficult to tell colors apart if it didn’t completely obliterate certain parts of the image?
That’s what can happen to the image on your security cams just the same when too much light gets through!
For the average home security setup utilizing surveillance cameras, this often comes about as an improper orientation of the cameras, or lights, and the result is a conflict.
For instance, if you have a driveway that runs parallel to the front of the house and you have your security camera placed on one corner, watching the driveway, but your security light placed on the opposite corner, illuminating the driveway there is a high likelihood that you will be splashing your security camera with your security light. Not good!
The result is likely going to be highly degraded, or even totally useless still images or video clips under these lighting conditions.
Though the presence of your security apparatus might be enough to deter criminals it might hang you later if the criminals are too stupid or too bold and decide to mess with your house anyway; you won’t have vital intelligence or evidence that could be used against them.
Be Wary of Reflective Surfaces
To further complicate your task of properly setting up your security cameras, you’ll have to be on the lookout for any reflective surfaces that could bounce light into your camera.
I know it sounds like a major pain; now you have to police your property and surrounding area for anything shiny in addition to taking care of the lights themselves! It sounds like a drag but it’s really not that bad a chore, don’t worry.
In short, you’re looking for anything that could produce glare or a direct reflection of light from any source. Some sources of reflected light are obvious. Others are pretty insidious.
Your vehicle’s mirrors or polished wheels could be one source, as could any uncovered metal trim on outdoor appliances or furniture. A window caught from the right angle could be one significant source of glare as could a pool or pond when the water is calm.
It is likely that you can easily get rid of or otherwise neutralize these sources of glare with a little creativity or just by moving them, but in certain instances you might have to move the camera itself or just re-aim it to prevent glare from scrubbing your image.
It is also possible to equip your camera with a kill-flash device or anti-reflection screen that can cut down on perceived glare if it is impossible to do anything about it.
Be Mindful of Shadows
Generally speaking, when it comes to light in a home security context more is better. The better you can eliminate your property all around, and the more darkness you can deprive the bad guys of, the better off you’re going to be.
However, the lights that you install to banish this darkness could actually wind up being a source of darkness that can be turned against you.
Any bright light source is capable of casting a deep well of shadows when something blocks the light. Once again, depending on the terrain around your home and other features, this could be a major problem or it might not be.
I can tell you this, you had better believe that savvy bad guys will look for these virtually impenetrable pools of darkness in order to help conceal their approach or to lurk and ambush.
This will definitely affect your powers of observation, but it might or might not affect your cameras depending on their capabilities and their features.
Most optical systems, even not electrical ones like telescopes and binoculars, will easily pierce gloom and shadows better than the human eye, and your cameras might do just the same.
But if they are cheap or malfunctioning they might not, so make sure you test them if you’re unable to eliminate any of these substantial shadows.
Consider a Co-Ax Mount
One way to ensure you are properly lighting your camera’s FOV (though potentially not providing enough area lighting for the rest of the property) is to use a coaxial light and camera mount.
These mounting solutions mount the camera and a variety of lighting solutions on the same mast, allowing you to easily aim them in the same general direction, and then fine-tune them for your specific needs.
These mounts work well and are an all-in-one over the counter solution that will be a perfect fit for many homeowners.
Perhaps the only drawback with these mounts is that you must take care to prevent the camera, depending on its size, from obstructing the beam of light cast by the lamps, and thusly throwing an enormous shadow. Not always an issue, but worth mentioning.
As long as you do a little homework to make sure that your chosen lighting system and camera will play well together on the mount, you won’t have any issues.
You are wise to install a home security system that includes surveillance cameras, but haphazardly placing them could defeat the purpose.
Image washout from a variety of light sources both on and around your home is a challenge that you must work to overcome from the outset if you want your cameras to record clear, usable high quality images.
Take care of that you properly manage lighting around your home and eliminate any potential sources of glare if you want to get the most out of your security cameras.