How to Set Up & Use a Hidden Camera

To get the best performance from your hidden camera, keep these simple tips in mind

Trust But Verify

Most people who buy hidden cameras are hoping to solve a problem in their life -- or they're worried about what's happening when they’re not around. When you buy a hidden camera, there’s always the risk that, even if something does happen, the camera won't capture it for some reason: the lighting was wrong, the memory card ran out of space, the camera angle was off, etc. We're here to minimize your risk. If you consider these simple concerns during setup, you’ll be able to gather the footage you need and put your mind at ease.

The most important advice we can give is this: Always test your camera in the environment where you’ll be using it. If that’s not possible, try to simulate the shooting environment as best you can beforehand.

If you're recording your child's nursery, set up your camera in the nursery during the time of day you're expecting to record and make sure your footage is acceptable. If you're looking to record a hotel room and you can’t visit it beforehand, recreate the environment in your own bedroom as best you can to confirm that the camera is capturing the level of detail you need.

The considerations that follow are extremely valuable, but the most important thing to remember is to test your footage first.

Lighting

Setting up an indoor hidden camera can be a challenge. Throughout the day, lighting conditions can vary substantially; so if you're setting the camera up during the day, but the footage you need to capture is at night, you could miss your shot completely due to shadows. When you're installing the camera, take specific notice of how the light moves across the room during the day. If you’re recording a nursery and you have a window that shines light in in the morning, set up your camera facing away from the window; this will ensure that your camera isn't just capturing shadows. If you need to monitor a hotel room or a your bedroom safe at night, assume that anyone looking to steal anything will need to turn a light on to do their dirty work. Set up your camera somewhere that isn't looking directly into the light.

Of course, lighting considerations will only get you so far. If you're worried that a burglar or housekeeper is going to rob you without turning the lights on, there are a number of low-lux and infrared (IR) “Night Vision” hidden cameras available to capture the footage you need. (Lux ratings refer to units of illuminance. The lower the lux rating, the better the camera is at providing quality low-light footage.) Consider a hidden camera with a rating of 2 lux or below if you want to record in low-light conditions. And remember, even if your camera is capable of recording in low light, the images won't be as detailed as as those you’dget in a well-lit room.

Camera Placement

When setting up a hidden camera, it's important to carefully consider where to place it within a room. If you're using a wall clock hidden camera, for example, be careful not to hang it too high or too low. If you do, you’ll wind up recording the top of someone's head or their knees. Likewise, if you're setting up an AC adapter hidden camera, don’t put it in a corner behind your couch, or facing an area of your room that doesn't get much action. Instead, take note of where the camera lens is, and make sure to aim it at the area you're most looking to monitor.

Also, take note of the camera's field of view. Outlet cameras like our AC adapter cam typically have an upward angle so you're able to record a whole room, but they also vary on how wide their horizontal range is. For example, the PIR Hidden Camera features a 66-degree field of view. Use a compass (or this angle generator) to better visualize the field of view you'll be shooting, and adjust accordingly to encapsulate the most activity within that field. As always, test the camera before committing to one location to ensure that you get the shot you need.

Memory and Battery Life

Most of the hidden cameras we sell use SD cards to store your video; and storage capacity depends on the camera’s video resolution and other engineering factors. If you're looking to store as much video as possible, opt for a larger-capacity SD card (32GB) and set your camera's resolution to the lowest available; this will ensure that the amount of stored video is maximized to the best of your camera's ability.

Another way in which memory can be enhanced is by choosing a camera with either motion activation, overwrite capabilities, or both. By selecting a motion-activated hidden camera, you guarantee that the camera will only start rolling when someone is in the room, instead of constantly capturing footage of an empty crib or safe. A camera with an overwrite function will begin recording over your oldest video once it reaches the end of its recording capacity. Ideally, the overwrite footage you capture won't erase any valuable video, but if it's footage that you've already reviewed and determined harmless, overwriting the old information is a great way to maximize your hidden camera's memory capacity. If you're monitoring an area for an extended period of time, it's important to check on your camera's memory status from time to time to ensure that it won't run out when it counts the most.

The same goes for battery life. We sell both AC-powered and battery-operated hidden cameras (some cams offer both options). If you select a battery-operated hidden cam, make sure you’ve got enough juice to capture the action for the intervals you need without recharging. Motion-activation goes a long way toward conserving battery life, but it’s always a good idea to test your camera’s battery life over a period of time to ensure you won’t miss an important shot.

Image Quality

As stated in the previous section, you can maximize your camera's memory by selecting a lower image resolution, but it's important to keep in mind that this will affect the quality of your video. Our hidden cameras range from standard resolution (640 x 480 pixels) to high definition (1280 x 720 pixels), and there are more options in between. Bear in mind that image resolution specs are a guideline, not an absolute. Some cameras with a lower pixel resolution spec will ultimately capture higher quality images than their higher-rated counterparts. That’s why it’s so important to test a camera’s performance before you press it into service.

In most cases, it's not necessarily essential to capture the most detail possible on your hidden camera. If you're monitoring your nanny or a domestic helper, for example, you can afford to settle on a lower image resolution. (You’re not looking to identify the person, just to make sure he or she is providing professional care.) But if you're using a hidden camera to monitor your business, it could be vitally important to have a detailed image of a customer in the event of shoplifting or some kind of conflict.