How to Use a Security Camera’s Night Vision Through a Window

View of a camera behind a window at night with night vision on

Wi-Fi cameras rely on infrared (IR) for night vision. But IR bounces off glass—so, if you’re using your camera behind a window, you’ll only see a blurry reflection at night. Here’s how to get a clear image.

Night Vision and Window Panes Don’t Mix

WyzeCam with IR LEDs lit
Josh Hendrickson

Night vision on most Wi-Fi cameras uses a relatively simple trick of physics. One or more IR LEDs blast out as much light as possible, acting as a floodlight. Because infrared isn’t visible to the human eye, you don’t even notice, and your camera can use that IR light to record video at night.

If you’ve ever tried to point your Wi-Fi camera out a window, you’ve probably found that it works perfectly during the day. But, at night, it’s a blurry mess of video, showing mostly just the reflection of your camera and smears of light.

Wyze Cam with night vision LEDs lit, most of the picture is obscured by bright lights
This is a Wyze Cam with NightVision on and exterior lights off.

This completely defeats the point of even having a security camera. If your camera did see someone outside, you’d never know what they looked like or what they were doing.

If you want your camera’s night vision to work through glass, you’ll want to provide exterior lighting. You can use either traditional outdoor lighting or IR lighting. You must also either turn off or cover the camera’s built-in IR lighting. Finally, you will either have to move the camera as close as possible to the window or angle it slightly instead of using a direct-on angle.

The best thing to do, of course, is to use an outdoor camera. An outdoor camera will bypass issues with glass and still benefit from most of these suggestions. But, if you can’t use an outdoor camera for any reason, consider these options to improve the video you do get from your indoor camera.

Consider Leaving the Porch Light On

View of front yard in color with porch lights on

The first goal in gaining a better picture is to take the built-in IR lights out of the equation. Traditional lights are the simplest way to accomplish that goal. If you have a porch light, leave it on. You can then turn off night mode on your camera.

The options here vary from camera to camera. Some cameras, like the Wyze Cam, only let you turn off everything. When night mode is off, the IR lights won’t turn on. Depending on the camera, your video may be in color. As you can see above, the picture is clear enough that you would see the face of anyone who approached your door at night.

But this has an obvious downside: You’re using electricity all night and potentially annoying your neighbors. Motion-activated lights are a better solution. You can find battery-operated lights that are easy to attach to your door or wall, like the Overlight. Or you could consider a powered solution with floodlights. A floodlight on its own can be more effective than a porch light. Combined, they can make for crystal clear video.

Turn Off or Cover the IR LEDs

In the above example, the camera’s video is still in…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

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