Although human eyes can't see infrared lights, the sensitive light sensors on numerous cameras and camcorders can use it to illuminate dark subjects. Infrared, or IR, light is reflective, so it bounces off a subject and returns to the camera as an image outline. Infrared light uses a red wavelength, unlike sunlight that includes all colors, so images usually appear monochromatic, sometimes with a green tint.
If you need to extend the range of your camera or camcorder for night photography or video, use external infrared lighting sources to help. Most cameras have built-in infrared lights, but these are only powerful enough to reach a few feet in front of the camera. External lights, which are often portable or battery powered, can boost your camera's range in low-light and night situations
Although most photographers enjoy IR photography, it's especially helpful when taking nighttime photos of wildlife, when color photography isn't as important as capturing photos of behavior. Infrared lights are used to boost the range of home and business security cameras as well as other low-light video recording. Some point-and-shoot digital cameras use a small IR light to help the flash auto-focus.
The range of your camera at night depends on the number of the tiny LED infrared lamps that make up your light. The more lamps you have, the more range you have. If you have a portable light that holds 36 infrared lamps, for example, you can boost your camera's range by about 50 feet.
Although the light from the IR bulbs spreads out slightly similar to a regular flashlight, it's mostly line-of-sight. If you need a 360-degree view at night, use several lights pointed in all directions. Infrared light works by being reflected back to the camera, so it won't work when shined toward a reflective surface, such as a window. The reflective nature of IR light means that objects close to the camera, usually within about five feet, will appear bright and unrecognizable, as too much of the light is reflected back without the distance needed to diffuse it. This is especially important as you consider placement options for security cameras, to make sure you can see faces or license plates if necessary.
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