A major concern shared by most homeowners is the safety and security of their families, their homes and their prized possessions. It’s a natural concern and is perfectly understandable given some of the horror stories you will read about in newspapers or see on television. That’s why most of us spend a considerable amount of our home budgets on installing high-security door and window locks and fitting alarm systems.
Some homeowners, however, are prepared to go one step further, and will invest large sums of money to install a CCTV home security system because they believe outdoor CCTV monitoring is the most effective means of deterring thieves and ‘guaranteeing’ the security of their property. But here’s a thought. Have you ever thought about using trail cameras to improve your home security?
The chances are that you haven’t. You may have thought that trail cameras were the exclusive preserve of wildlife enthusiasts, but the fact is there’s absolutely no reason at all why trail cams shouldn’t be a useful addition to every concerned citizen’s home security armoury.
If you’re still unsure about the usefulness and suitability of trails cameras in a home security context, then hopefully the following information might go some way to convincing you. What’s more, we’ll also give you advice on how to hide a trail cam for home security and the best strategic locations for positioning CCTV cameras as well as which locations will provide comprehensive surveillance coverage of your property and protect it from intruders.
Trail cameras: what are they capable of and what can they be used for?
It’s probably advisable to start with the basics before moving on to where best to place trail cams for maximum effect. So first off:
What is a trail camera?
A trail ‘game’ camera is a device most often used by enthusiasts to take close-up images of wildlife from a distance. They are usually placed high up in trees or in less accessible places to allow photographers to capture great photographic shots of indigenous animals. The added benefit of game cameras is that they can used with timers and motion sensor triggers so that the photographer or videographer doesn’t have to be anywhere near the camera when video is being recorded. All these beneficial attributes could easily be replicated and are applicable in a home security environment.
How does a trail camera work?
Trail cams are basically camera traps. They are usually fitted with motion detectors which pick up movement and this then causes the camera to trigger. Trail cameras will either use a light-activated motion detector or an infrared light sensor. Whatever method is used, the outcome is the same: the camera shutter is activated when an animal comes in contact with the beam. In a home security context, it is easy to substitute animal for human or intruder.
What other functions can a trail camera be used for?
Trail cameras are increasingly being used to combat rural crime across the world. In rural areas landowners often care for vast tracts of land which are impossible to effectively monitor 24 hours every day. The same difficulties apply to wildlife sanctuaries and areas of outstanding natural beauty, Landowners have neither the manpower or resources to monitor land in the same way you might monitor a domestic or commercial property. That’s why trail cams are proving to be so useful. What’s more, trail cameras are easily hidden and disguised, so perpetrators, whether they’re thieves, trespassers or fly tippers won’t necessarily know they’re being monitored.
Are trail cameras legal on private land?
The short answer to that is yes, they are. If you are considering placing a trail cam on someone’s else’s property, then you will need their explicit permission and you should also check all the local authority byelaws and whether you’ll need to purchase a permit before proceeding.
How and where to hide a trail camera for home security purposes
1. Hide your trail cam high up and out of reach
The higher you can hide your trail cam, the more secure it is and the less likely it is to be interfered with by intruders. It’s important to remember to angle the camera downwards to be the best image and to check before going live that the image it gives delivers the security impact you desire. It’s worth noting, however, that if you do mount the camera at its maximum height, then you will need to have access to a ladder should the camera malfunction, but maybe that is a small price to pay.
2. Size doesn’t really matter
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. For trail cameras that message is doubly important. The smaller the trail cam, the easier it will be to hide. The quality of the final images and video will not necessarily be compromised either. Modern trail cams are smaller and more compact than their older predecessors, the lenses are just as sharp.
3. Conceal the camera within its natural surroundings
The old adage of the best place to hide an object is in plain sight does not apply to trail cams. The object of the exercise is to keep them disguised and invisible for maximum effect. So, the best advice is to use the natural surroundings, whether that’s trees, foliage, or shrubbery to conceal the camera. If you want to install a trail cam on a building, then choose an area of the building where it will blend in best. If the brickwork or cladding is decorative or patterned, place the camera somewhere within the decoration. If concealment is not possible, then it is probably worth camouflaging the camera.
4. Invest in a dummy camera
If you are prepared to invest in several trail cameras, then it is probably worth investing that little bit more to buy a dummy or decoy camera. Intruders may well spot this decoy and either destroy or deface it, but it is probably worth the additional cost and they won’t necessarily realise it is a dummy trail cam and that other cameras are watching them as they do so. If you mount the decoy camera in plain sight and mount the trail cam so that it is fixed on the dummy camera, then perpetrators will be unaware that their actions are being caught on film.
5. Hide the trail camera in foliage or shrubbery
Trees, foliage, and shrubbery make the perfect hiding places for trail cameras. They’re natural features of every garden and places where intruders won’t necessarily suspect that video cameras will be hidden. If the trail cam is disguised, then there are unlikely to be spotted by thieves. It’s important to remember that the trail cam lens should not be obscured by any leaves and branches in the shrubbery and that the camera should be placed in a position where it won’t be adversely affected by the wind, as wind gusts will interfere with the motion sensors in the trail cam.
6. Keep your trail camera locations secret
The best way of keeping a secret is to keep it to yourself. The fewer people who know the locations of the camera, the better.
7. If you can afford it use wireless trail cameras
Wireless cameras are indispensable in outdoor security surveillance. There are no wires for intruders to spot or cut, and the wireless technology means the cameras can be installed anywhere.
Where to place your trail cameras
- Most intruders affect their initial entry via outbuildings and external structures, rather than entering via the main property. They probably suspect that these areas are the least likely to be secured or monitored. Position a trail cam in these structures, whether that’s a garage or greenhouse.
- Position the main trail cam at a high point in nearby tress or large bushes where you’ll be able to get an overall view of the property.
- Intruders don’t like lights. They’re far more comfortable in the dark. So, it’s probably worth investing in a trail cam with a built-in IR flash. If you place one near or adjacent to the main entrance to the building they will light up as soon as motion is detected and deter any potential intruders,
- If you can, position your trail cam in an area that doesn’t get a great deal of sunlight. Shaded and covered areas are not only great places for hiding trail cams, but also, they offer greater protection against sunlight, glare, and general weather exposure.
- Don’t forget to utilise every area which may offer protection and disguise for your trail cam, whether that’s an old bird nesting box or the hollowed-out interior of a dead tree or shrub.
Other trail camera issues to think about
Camera lens coverage
The placement of a camera will often depend on the lens it uses. Cameras with a focus range of around 45 to 75 degrees should be aimed at specific areas, such as a doorway or a garage door. If you use a wide-angle lens, place your camera where it can see 75 to 180 degrees without obstruction. If your camera rotates check with the manufacturer to calculate how much unobstructed viewing area the lens needs.
Angles of coverage
For CCTV cameras, IP cameras and trail cameras, the term ‘angle of coverage’ describes the angle range that a camera lens can image. Typically, the video image circle produced by a lens will be big enough to cover the camera image sensor completely. If the angle of coverage of the lens does not completely fill the image sensor, the image circle will be obvious: it will typically show signs of strong vignetting toward the edge of the image and the effective angle of view will be limited to the angle of coverage.
There isn’t an average security camera angle, as it is largely determined by the design of camera, the technology the camera employs, the focal length of the lens and the size of the image sensor.
For CCTV cameras, IP cameras and trail cams the Angle of Coverage is predominantly determined by both the focal length of lens and the size of image sensor. The larger the image sensor, the wider the angle of coverage will be and the higher the focal length of the lens, the narrower the angle of coverage will be. However, it also needs to be remembered that different image resolutions can also affect the angle of coverage.
Usually, the size of CCTV camera image sensors ranges between 1/3″ to 1/2.5″; and the focal length of the lens will range from 2.8mm to 12mm and everything in between depending on the type and make of the CCTV camera. With 1/3″ of image sensor, 2.8mm focal length will deliver an angle of coverage of around 90°: a 4mm focal length will deliver around 70° coverage, 6mm around 43.3°coverage and a 12mm focal length twill deliver around a 20.6° angle of coverage