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IP Network Cameras and Lighting – A Basic Guide

We receive questions about IP cameras and lighting on a daily basis. We thought that this post may help many of you who are specifying lighting for use with IP cameras and are looking for guidance. This is a concise guide dealing with the basics only.

No light, no picture

The first thing to remember is that no camera will work in the dark. For a camera to provide a picture some form of light will be required. This can be either natural sun light or artificial light. Artificial light will be a requirement when the camera is to be operated indoors or at night.

Artificial light

We separate between three forms of artificial light:

  • Standard interior lighting and external (flood) lighting
  • White light
  • Infra-red light

When designing a camera system that requires artificial light, the following advantages and disadvantages should be kept in mind:

Standard light


  • Often already available, else easy to set up
  • Low-cost
  • Any camera can be used
  • Colour pictures
  • Light also functions as a deterrent within security applications (think of using PIR triggered lights)


  • Camera pictures may not accurately reflect the true colours. Pictures may be overly blue, green or yellow
  • Cannot be used if light pollution is an issue
  • Limited distance

White light


  • Any camera can be used
  • Adaptive illumination – allows the angle of light to match the viewing angle of the camera
  • Colour pictures and accurate reflection of the true colours
  • Easy set up
  • Functions as a deterrent within security applications (PIR triggered lighting)


  • Expensive
  • Medium distance

Infra-red Light


  • Not visible to the human eye (depending on lamps used), allows covert operation
  • Longer distances
  • No light polution
  • Adaptive illumination


  • Expensive to install and operate
  • Only works with cameras featuring automatic day/night switching
  • Black and white images only
  • More difficult to set up

Angle and distance

For best performance the illumination should ideally match or be wider then the camera’s viewing angle. If the illumination is narrower than the camera’s viewing angle, the camera will only see a bright spot in the middle of the scene and the contrast between light and dark within the picture will be too great for (most) cameras to provide good quality images.

After having established the angle, the next consideration is the distance of the illumination. Be aware that as the angle increases, the distance decreases and vice versa.

Different lamp types and solutions provide different angles and distances. We can help you choose.

In practice

In general our experience is that standard lighting works fine and meets the requirements of most of our customers, which include businesses, schools, universities, blue chips, councils, hotels, factories and many other types of organisation. Infrared and White light are recommended in high-level security operations, such as town centres, train stations and other high-risk areas and public spaces.

For more information or assistance with choosing an IP camera or lighting please contact us on 0151 633 2111 (United Kingdom) +44 151 633 2111 (other countries) or email us.

Published on July 4th, 2007 by Frank Crouwel

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