THOUGHT CENTER > Blog > Security Cameras

Can Security Cameras Read License Plates at Night?

Mammoth Brief

Too busy to read? Here’s a summary:

  • License plate cameras can read license plates at night using night vision and smart processing technologies.
  • When choosing a camera for license plate recognition at night, look for high-resolution capabilities, infrared or other low-light features, and a high frame rate to ensure clear and accurate capture of license plates in various lighting conditions.
  • Regular maintenance, like cleaning camera lenses and checking alignment, is crucial for maintaining image quality and ensuring the cameras perform optimally at night.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in security system services is rapidly growing. In fact, new products with new functionalities are entering the security camera marketplace all the time.

And in this bustling world of business and organizational security, understanding the capabilities of your security system is crucial.

That’s why this blog post illuminates the facts and best practices for nighttime license plate recognition.

Ready to learn about license plate recognition cameras and how they maintain functionality in low-light environments? Then you’re at the right place.

The Challenge of Nighttime License Plate Recognition

When the sun goes down, the rules of the game change.

Reading license plates at night isn't a walk in the park. It's a complex task that hinges on factors like camera quality, lighting conditions, and vehicle speed.

Connecticut downtown at night

At night, lighting plays an especially pivotal role. Too little light and the camera struggles to capture clear images. Too much light and your camera may be blinded by the glare.

It's all about striking that perfect balance.

Choosing the Right Camera for the Job

Not all cameras are created equal. For night operations, you need a camera that's up to the task of capturing clear footage details even in low-light conditions.

When you're in the market for a camera that can read license plates at night, here's what you should look for:

High-Resolution Cameras: Seeing the Fine Details

A high-resolution camera is your best friend in low-light conditions. It captures the finer details, making it easier to read license plates from a distance.

Infrared and Low-Light Features: The Nighttime Warriors

Infrared cameras can see what the human eye can't. They use IR light to illuminate the scene in front of them, capturing clear images even in pitch-black conditions.

Night vision for license plate recognition extends beyond infrared (IR) technology. Alternatives include:

Low-Light Cameras (Electron Multiplying CCDs - EMCCD): These amplify available light, enabling clear imaging in minimal lighting. They're effective for capturing readable license plates in dimly lit environments without the need for IR illumination.

Thermal Imaging: This technology detects heat emitted by objects, including vehicles. While not directly used for reading license plates, it aids in vehicle detection and positioning in total darkness, complementing other technologies for complete night surveillance.

Image Enhancement Software: Advanced software can enhance and clarify footage captured in low light, improving the legibility of license plates.

Each of these technologies plays a role in ensuring effective license plate recognition at night. They either enhance available light or use alternative methods to illuminate or detect vehicles, ensuring that license plates are captured clearly, regardless of lighting conditions.

Speed Matters: Capturing Moving Targets

If you're monitoring a busy road, you need a camera that can keep up with moving vehicles. Look for commercial security cameras with high frame rates.

A frame rate, measured in frames per second (FPS), indicates how many images a camera captures in one second.

In license plate recognition, especially in low-light environments or for fast-moving vehicles, a higher frame rate is crucial.

In dim settings, a higher FPS compensates for reduced visibility by capturing more images, increasing the chances of a clear shot.

For speedy vehicles, a high frame rate ensures smoother footage, reducing motion blur and capturing legible license plate details even at high speeds.

Essentially, the faster the frame rate, the clearer and more accurate the capture of fast-moving or poorly lit license plates.

Best Practices for Nighttime License Plate Recognition

Here are some tips to make sure your cameras do their job well after dark:

Strategic Placement is Key

It's not just about having the right camera; it's also about where you place it. Ensure your cameras have clear, unobstructed views of the areas you want to monitor.

Regular Maintenance: Keeping Things Crystal Clear

Regularly clean your camera lenses and check their alignment. A little bit of upkeep goes a long way in maintaining image quality.

Pairing with Adequate Lighting

Consider installing additional lighting in the camera's field of view. But remember, it's all about balance – too much light can be just as bad as too little.

Night Vision Achieved

So, can security cameras read license plates at night?

Absolutely—with the right equipment and setup.

Mammoth Security: Expertise at Your Service

Mammoth Security Logo

When it comes to security, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Every business has unique needs, and the Mammoth Security crew is here to tailor a system that fits your needs like a glove. Reach out to us, and let's make sure your night surveillance is as sharp as daylight. Our team of experts can help you choose the right equipment and set it up for optimal performance day and night.

For a 100% FREE site survey and consultation, just click to contact us and fill out the form.




Absolutely, security cameras can reliably read and store license plates at night with the right equipment and setup. High-resolution cameras, infrared features, and proper lighting can support effective nighttime license plate recognition.

Effective nighttime license plate recognition requires high-resolution cameras with infrared or other night vision capabilities, strategic camera placement, regular maintenance, and balanced lighting conditions.

Infrared cameras work for license plate recognition at night by using IR light to illuminate scenes, enabling them to capture clear images even in pitch-black conditions.

Frame rate, measured in frames per second (FPS), is crucial in license plate recognition because a higher frame rate captures more images, reducing motion blur and increasing the chances of capturing legible license plates. A fast frame rate is especially valuable in low-light conditions or for fast-moving vehicles.

The best practices for positioning security cameras for license plate recognition include ensuring a clear, unobstructed view of the area, regular lens cleaning, correct alignment, and installing adequate lighting while maintaining a balance to avoid glare.

Low-light cameras, such as Electron Multiplying CCDs (EMCCD), amplify available light, enabling clear imaging in minimal lighting, thus enhancing the ability to capture readable license plates in dimly lit environments.

High-resolution cameras are important in reading license plates at night as they capture finer details, making it easier to read license plates from a distance and in low-light conditions.

Thermal imaging complements license plate recognition technology by detecting heat emitted from vehicles, aiding in vehicle detection and positioning in total darkness, and working alongside other technologies for comprehensive night surveillance.

The significance of camera frame rate in monitoring fast-moving vehicles lies in its ability to capture smoother footage with less motion blur, enabling the capture of legible license plate details at high speeds.

Image enhancement software improves license plate recognition by clarifying and enhancing footage captured in low light, thus improving the legibility of license plates under challenging lighting conditions.

The challenges of reading license plates at night include dealing with varying lighting conditions and the speed of the vehicle, both of which can affect the clarity of the captured images.

Strategic placement is key for security cameras at night to ensure a clear, unobstructed view of the target area, maximizing the camera's ability to capture clear images for effective license plate recognition.

Balanced lighting is important for nighttime security cameras to avoid issues like underexposure or glare, which can hinder the camera's ability to capture clear images for license plate recognition.



I’m not just another sales guy. I’m a security expert ready to discuss your security strategy one-on-one.

Let’s discuss your security strategy and get you a tailored solution that will perfectly fit your security expectations.

Get your FREE copy of ‘Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing A Camera System’