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What is IR in Security Cameras? Best Practices of IR Cameras

March 26, 2024

Mammoth Takeaways

  • Infrared (IR) light is invisible to the human eye but visible to specialized IR camera sensors.
  • IR night vision security cameras use LEDs to bathe their field of view in infrared light.
  • IR cameras perceive objects in low-light and pitch-black settings when IR light reflects off surfaces.
  • Once the camera perceives objects and surfaces using IR light, it translates its IR perception into the visible range of light for human end users.

The well-documented impact of security cameras on crime rates is nothing short of remarkable. Their value and effectiveness have been confirmed by numerous studies in recent years and decades.

For example, a study from the Urban Institute found that Chicago's extensive network of over 8,000 cameras contributed to an estimated 12% drop in crime.

But how do those security cameras capture clear footage at night and in zero-light conditions? By leveraging infrared (IR) night vision features.

If you’re ready for Mammoth Security to illuminate the topic of IR night vision, grab your favorite beverage or snack and get comfy.

We’re about to unravel the enigma of IR night vision and how it works.

The Lowdown on IR

IR stands for infrared, a type of light that's invisible to the human eye but visible to IR security camera sensors.

When darkness falls, cameras without night vision technology struggle to capture clear images in low-light and no-light settings.

That's where IR comes in—acting like a pair of night-vision goggles for your cameras.


Infrared LEDs around lens of night vision dome camera

IR security cameras are equipped with infrared LEDs that bathe the area in front of the camera in infrared light. This light, invisible to us, is as clear as day to the camera.

The result?

The camera can perceive clear, detailed footage even in the pitch dark.

Black and White Mode

When ambient light dips below a certain level, an IR security camera's sensors will kick into high gear, switching the camera from its regular color mode to black and white.

Why black and white?

Switching to black and white maximizes contrast and clarity in low-light conditions.

IR Cut Filter

Here's where it gets really interesting: the camera's IR cut filter.

During the day, this little gizmo blocks out infrared light to prevent it from muddying the waters, so to speak, ensuring the colors you see are as true to life as possible.

But at night, the IR cut filter steps aside, allowing the IR light to flood in and illuminate the scene with light that is invisible to all but the camera's IR sensor.

IR sensors perceive objects in infrared and then translate that information into the visual spectrum of light for presentation to human viewers.

Best Practices: Making the Most of Your IR Security Cameras

All right, now that you're up to speed on how IR works, let's talk about best practices.

How can you ensure your IR security cameras are pulling their weight? Here are a few best practices:

Location, Location, Location: Place your cameras strategically. High, wide, and unobstructed views are your best bet.

Avoid the Glare: Watch out for reflective surfaces like windows or shiny metal, which can bounce the IR light back into the camera lens, creating a whiteout effect.

Keep 'Em Clean: A dirty lens can turn your night vision into a blurry mess. A gentle wipe now and then keeps the footage crisp and clear.

Mind the Range: Infrared light has range limits. Make sure the camera's IR range matches or exceeds the area you need to monitor.

Mammoth Security man

Illuminating the World of Security Cameras

In the realm of security, knowledge is power, and now you're a little bit more powerful than you were before.

Mammoth Security is Connecticut’s one-stop shop for commercial-grade security systems. Our mission is to treat your security as if it were our own. We’re here to illuminate the complex world of security technology and light your path to a more secure tomorrow.

If you have any questions or would like to request a free site survey and consultation with a friendly expert from our team, just give us a call or click on the contact.




In the context of security cameras, infrared (IR) refers to a type of light that is invisible to the naked eye but essential for night vision capabilities. Although invisible to the human eye, IR light can be perceived by IR-capable security cameras. The camera provides night vision by portraying the scene it captures in infrared light using colors that are visible to the human eye. In this way, they enable clear, detailed footage even in complete darkness.

IR cameras switch to black and white in low-light conditions to maximize contrast and clarity. Black and white imagery is better at distinguishing features in the dark, as it enhances the visibility of objects by reducing the complexity of colors.

An IR cut filter in security cameras is a device that blocks infrared light during the day to prevent it from distorting colors in daytime footage. At night, the IR cut filter moves aside to allow infrared light from the camera’s LEDs to bounce off objects and return to the camera’s infrared sensor for detailed images. The IR cut filter enables IR for night vision while ensuring clear, accurate colors during the day.

IR night vision is essential for security cameras because it enables them to capture clear and detailed footage in complete darkness. Without IR night vision, cameras would be significantly less effective at night, as they would be unable to see anything in dark conditions.

The ambient light level affects IR security cameras by determining when they switch between regular color mode and black-and-white night vision mode. When the ambient light falls below a certain threshold, the camera's sensors activate the IR mode, allowing the camera to continue capturing clear footage in reduced lighting and no lighting conditions.

The best practices for installing IR security cameras include choosing locations for placement that provide high, wide, and unobstructed views; avoiding direct placement in front of reflective surfaces to prevent IR glare; regularly cleaning the lens; and ensuring the IR range is sufficient for covering the intended area.

It's important to avoid reflective surfaces when installing IR security cameras because reflective surfaces can bounce the infrared light back into the camera lens, causing a whiteout effect. This glare can obscure the footage, making it difficult to see anything and defeating the purpose of IR night vision.

When choosing the range of your IR security cameras, consider the size of the area you need to monitor. Make sure the IR range of the camera matches or exceeds this area to ensure that the infrared light can illuminate the entire scene.



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