5 Tips for Successful Surveillance Photography


  1. Make Sure You Have The Correct Gear:

Having surveillance equipment suitable enough for surveillance operations is a key point to any successful operation. With the advanced technology available in today’s consumer’s market, purchasing an advanced or professional grade digital single lens- reflex (DSLR) camera is a must. A DX or FX format camera will both produce a sufficient photograph but an FX is preferred. You will achieve a much wider angle of view if you operate with an FX format camera. In regards to megapixels, anything 20 or above will generate a crisp picture which is greatly needed when trying to identify small details such as license plate numbers from a distance. Often times when in a surveillance photography situation, you are positioned in a discrete location some distance away. Not always are you able to position yourself directly across the street from your photography location. Therefore you need to purchase a lens with enough magnification to reach your photography target and capture required details. Operating with a lens 200mm or higher would be the preferred lens. There are a lot of great lenses available in the 200mm-400mm that work great in most surveillance situations. You can also purchase a teleconverter which will double the magnification of your lens, however keep in mind, you will lose 1 f-stop when you connect your teleconverter.

2. Take Practice Photos as the Environment Changes:

When shooting in manual mode, it is important to continue to adjust the metering on your camera to adjust to the changes in light at your photography location. It is strongly advised to continue to take practice photos as the light continues to change in order to make the appropriate corrections. Adjusting your camera to the current lighting conditions at 1pm and then needing to use your camera at 6pm, will require different light metering. If your camera is still set for the lighting conditions at 1pm, then your 6pm photos will likely not be properly metered.

  1. Know Your Camera:

Knowing how to use your camera and to properly adjust many of the settings is key to capturing successful photos when you need to most. It is important that you not only understand how to use your camera in an automatic mode but also in manual mode. Different scenarios call for different settings. It is important that you know the difference between shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, and programmable. Each of these settings have a particular use. There is a difference and need for shooting in single, continuous high, and continuous low. You will almost never use a flash in surveillance photography, therefore you need to understand how to quickly change your ISO setting and then open your aperture or slow down your shutter speed to gather light in a low light situation. These are just a few examples of important technical details you need to know about your camera to take successful surveillance photography in many situations.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice:

The digital camera world has made it very easy for us to practice our photography, so you should take the opportunity any time you get. Experiment with your camera in different scenarios and light levels. The more you practice with your camera, the better you will become at quickly adjusting your camera and capturing the best photos you can in difficult situations. It is important that you not only practice the easy situations but challenge yourself and try to master the difficult, low light situations also.

  1. Don’t Forget To Charge The Batteries:

Last but not least, CHARGE YOUR BATTERIES!!! There is nothing worse than sitting for hours, days, or weeks for an opportunity to capture important photographic evidence and your camera has a dead battery. Most professional grade camera batteries last for a while on each charge but if you are continuously turning your camera off and on, changing between photo and video mode, or adjusting settings, your battery will drain much faster.

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