Why Do Security Cameras Have a Red Light?

Security cameras these days come in all shapes and sizes; Big ones, small ones, Indoor and Outdoor. Whatever your use case is, there is usually a Camera that will suit your needs.

One thing that most if not all Security Cameras have in common is a small, often Red Light just above the camera lens. The reason that Light is there is pretty simple, yet important to making sure your Security System is in working order.

So Why do Security Cameras Have Red Lights?

Security Cameras have small Red Lights (sometimes Other Colors) to indicate that there is a recording in progress. For cameras that are constantly on, that light will also be on 24/7. For other Cameras, like the Blink, the light will only come on when motion is detected and a clip is recorded. Some cameras can turn the Light off even when recording.

For a long time, Security Cameras have come with a little Indicator LED (usually in the top corner). The reason for them is so you can inspect a camera at a glance.

Long before remote viewing and being able to check and diagnose cameras via a Smartphone App, these little lights made it easy for someone like a Security Guard to walk around their building and make sure all of the cameras were functioning and recording.

They would be able to do a similar check when they got back to their station and could look at the video being captured by each camera, but being able to walk around and inspect cameras at the same time was appealing, and not very difficult to implement.

Do all Security Cameras have Red Lights?

As time has gone on, and Security Cameras became more advanced, the need for an Indicator Light remained. Even cameras you can buy off the shelf today have some sort of Indicator light that tells you that it’s recording. 

Are they always Red? No. Sometimes these Indicator Lights are Blue (Case in point: My Blink Wireless Camera System)Opens in a new tab. 

Not all Cameras have the lights either. Sometimes they are omitted, either for design or cost reduction. 

Even if you do have the light on your camera, and you don’t like it (maybe you want your camera to be stealthy, and not shine a bright light in the dark letting someone know it’s recording them. 

With systems like Blink and other modern Security Cameras, they have features that allow you to choose whether or not you want the Light to illuminate during recording. 

Here’s a picture of the switch inside one of my Blink Cameras. 

This Light Feature (usually Red) is something also commonly found on many models of Fake or Dummy Security Cameras. 

The intent here isn’t to show any indication of function – they aren’t real cameras after all!

Dummy Cameras use these lights to trick would be Thieves into thinking they are real…and recording them about to break into your home or building.

Pretty slick if you ask me!

How can I tell if my Red Light is Broken on my Camera?

Sometimes our equipment gets old, or we completely forget it’s there (not hard to do if you have a well-hidden camera that isn’t frequently needed!). 

In that case, you might notice that there isn’t a light show, even when you stand in front and wave your arms. Is it even still working?!

The easiest way to tell is to look and see if there is live footage available from this camera. Either through your app or a DVR if your system is a closed-loop. If there’s no feed, then that camera isn’t working properly and you need to troubleshoot it. 

Otherwise, it may be one of those models I mentioned previously, where you can turn the Indicator on and Off. Check the camera and see if this feature is turned on or off, that may be the ticket. 

There could be a couple of good reasons to leave that light off, though.

Should I turn off the LED On my Security Camera?

As I mentioned before, having the Indicator light turn on when your camera is recording can be beneficial, especially if you have a large number of cameras to check out or if you don’t have an easy way to check the footage directly.

There are cases, though, where you probably don’t want to have the light turned on. 

The first situation is based on whether or not you’re trying to hide your camera. 

If you’ve gone to the trouble of camouflaging the unit so it’s difficult to see a camera staring back at you, it isn’t going to make a ton of sense for a bush to suddenly have a glowing Red Light, is it? 

Sort of defeats the purpose. 

The second situation is the time of day you expect the camera to provide the most value. 

During the day, depending on the camera, the lights aren’t super obvious. They don’t really stick out unless you’re looking right at them. 

At night, on the other hand, those same lights become nice and obvious. 

I personally have a couple of cameras that I didn’t go to the trouble of camouflaging (they are Black colored and the area I installed them doesn’t have any light source at night), but I decided to turn the light function off because again, there would be this Big Blue light shining from the darkness.

Now on the other side of that coin, as they often say in programming, that might not be a bug but a feature!

An indicator light may signal to an experienced Burglar “Oh crap, they have a Camera and I’m being recorded” and that might be just enough to get them to scram. 

No Lights, Alarms, or Robot Guards necessary!

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you do a little research before you go out and buy your cameras, and think about how you intend to use them, where you might install them, and whether you want to have the light on or off (if you have that option).


Ben is a passionate learner who's spent years gathering knowledge on all sorts of topics. He loves being as prepared as possible for any of life's many situations, and finding ways to make sure his home and family are secure is top priority. Sharing the things he's learned is a fulfilling way to give back.

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