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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

How to Make the Best Hidden Home Security Cameras

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

How to Make the Best Hidden Home Security Cameras

How you can make your own security camera systems

Surveillance cameras for home security are a staple in today’s world. While many systems can cost a lot of money and time to install, you can make your own with a few common household items. With a little bit of work, an old phone can become a security camera to record video in your home. Wireless cameras are useful in many applications like home security, pet monitoring, and even watching for packages on the porch. Using covert cameras has its advantages, but caution needs to be exercised so as to not violate anyone’s personal space.

Why use a DIY Hidden Home Security Camera?

We all like the idea of using a tiny camera for security purposes. If your budget will not allow for security camera systems, then doing it yourself is a great option. It makes us feel like a spy, plus taking this on as a DIY project can give us a greater sense of safety and the feeling of accomplishment.

These cameras can also be used to supplement your current home security cameras. Installing an additional camera to cover a gap in surveillance is always a good idea. Also, these DIY cameras can be temporary, only being used when a certain circumstance arises like the delivery of a package.

We can get caught up in all the fun ideas of a hidden home security camera, but one important thing is to respect the privacy and boundaries of others. The information in this article is to be used for ethical and legal applications.

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Common Household Items that Can be Security Cameras

While you may not think about it, if you have an old smartphone or laptop lying around, it can be repurposed into a home security camera. If it has a camera lens and an internet connection, then you’ve got yourself a new camera.

Old cell phones make great surveillance cameras as they can connect to your Wi-Fi network and already have a camera. With the addition of apps available in the iOS and Android app stores, you can have a robust system.

Old laptops can have their built-in cameras removed with a little bit of work. This is more of a DIY project than the smartphone because some splicing and soldering is required. But if you have a few lying around, they can create a great system to stream video.

How to use an old Smartphone as a Home Security Camera

The first step in converting a smartphone into a security camera is finding one that will still power up. Once you have your cell phone on, consider resetting it to remove all the old apps that are needed. This will help improve battery life. Once the phone has been formatted to run as few apps as possible make sure the phone’s camera is in good shape.

The biggest drawback to using an old smartphone is the battery life. Generally, after heavy use and long-term storage in a drawer, the battery will be worn down. This means you’ll most likely have to place the camera near an outlet and keep it plugged into work. If that’s not possible, then a power bank can be used.

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Using the AlfredCamera App

Once you know that your smartphone can stay powered and the camera is in good shape, it’s time to hit the app store. There are many home security apps that work on both iOS and Android, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll look at the AlfredCamera app.

To get this to work, you can simply download the app onto your main phone and your old phone that is now being recycled into a security camera. On your main phone start the app, create a login, and then designate it as the viewer. On the old phone, designate it as the camera.

Now you have a camera and monitor that the app will pair together to work as a surveillance system. Plus, more than one camera can be added to the app. You can designate the use of the front or back camera and whether you want audio and motion tracking. When it comes to battery life, AlfredCamera has a lock that will dim the screen.

The free version will be more limited, so be aware. There are also a lot of ads, too. If you like the app, then it may be to your advantage to purchase the upgrade.

AlfredCamera Website

When motion tracking is enabled, the camera phone will record and send an alert to the viewer phone. From that phone, you can view the recording or view the live feed. You can even use two-way audio to talk and sound an alarm. In essence, they have a lot of the same features that the bigger companies have. Not bad for an old phone and a free app.

How to use an Old Laptop Camera as a Security Camera

Repurposing an old laptop camera into a home security camera offers a cost-effective and sustainable solution for enhancing home security. With advancements in technology, many older laptops end up unused, and their built-in cameras can find new life as surveillance tools. Many laptop cameras offer better video quality than dedicated security cameras. The process involves a few simple steps.

First, the laptop needs to be disassembled to extract the camera module carefully. This module can then be connected to a computer or a dedicated mini-computer like a Raspberry Pi using USB connections.

Once the laptop camera is integrated with the chosen device, it can be positioned to monitor key areas within the home. Its compact size makes it discreet, allowing it to blend seamlessly into the environment.

Motion detection software can be configured to trigger recording whenever movement is detected, sending alerts or saving the footage to a designated storage location like a hard drive or SD card. With internet connectivity, users can even access the camera's feed remotely via smartphones or computers, enhancing overall security and peace of mind. If you have several laptops going unused, then you can set up multiple home security cameras.

Where to Place Hidden Cameras Indoors

The best hidden cameras are in locations that you don’t expect. Many people look on top of shelves in the living room, on ceilings, and on mantels for cameras. But the ones that are mixed in naturally are the ones most difficult to spot. Remember if you are using a smartphone place it near a power source, or use a long USB cable to provide power.

Best hidden camera locations for indoors:

  1. Bookshelf: Tuck a smartphone among books or decorative items on a bookshelf, providing an elevated view of the room.

  2. Windowsill: Place the smartphone on a windowsill with a clear view of the room's key areas.

  3. Kitchen Counter: Position the smartphone amidst kitchen items, capturing activity in a central part of the house.

  4. Mantelpiece: Blend the smartphone into a mantelpiece or shelf arrangement, capturing a broad view of the room.

  5. Nightstand: Set the smartphone on a nightstand or bedside table, offering a close-up view of the bedroom or entrance.

  6. Kids Toys: Place the camera near children’s toys on a shelf or near a bin. Most people look past children’s items.

  7. TV Stand: Discreetly place the smartphone near a TV or entertainment center to cover the living area.

  8. Entry Table: Position the smartphone on a foyer or entryway table, capturing anyone who enters the space.

  9. Potted Plant: Hide the smartphone inside a large indoor plant pot, providing an inconspicuous vantage point.

  10. Top of a Cabinet: Place the smartphone on top of a tall cabinet or armoire, overlooking a wide area of the room.

Where to Place Hidden Cameras Outdoors

DIY cameras are not only made for the indoors. Placing them in and around your property can be useful. To ensure success, make your camera waterproof with a case and protect the power source so that it does not short out or cause any harm.

Best Hidden Camera Locations Outdoor:

  1. Decorative Plant: Place a small security among the leaves of a decorative plant near any entry points. This blends well with the surroundings.

  2. Mailbox or Mail Slot: Place a compact camera inside the mailbox or just above the mail slot. This location provides a clear view of anyone approaching the front door.

  3. Peephole Camera: Upgrade your doorbell with a camera or install a discreet peephole camera. These are common locations and won't arouse suspicion.

  4. Garden Gnome: Incorporate a camera into a garden gnome or statue. This playful disguise can effectively conceal the camera's presence. Who doesn’t love a garden gnome?

  5. Behind Window Curtains: Place a small camera behind a sheer curtain facing outward. This is a good option for indoor monitoring of windows.

Drawbacks to DIY Home Security Cameras

While creating your own home security system out of household items is a fun DIY project, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

First, you may encounter some compatibility issues. If several types of old smartphones are used, their image quality, frame rate, and lens glass may not match. This will cause each camera to look and perform differently. With professional systems, the cameras match and function the same. In the same vein, DIY systems don’t offer the same level of reliability as professional ones. Connectivity issues, downtime, lack of support, and glitches may compromise your home’s security.

Another thing to consider is where your data is going. If you use a third-party app on an old cell phone, then the app may monitor, keep, and analyze your footage. If you don’t read the fine print then you don’t know what is going to happen to your footage. However, large companies have had issues with data storage and privacy.

Recording and storing video footage requires ample storage space. DIY setups often rely on local storage options, which may fill up quickly and lead to the loss of important footage. And if more storage is needed, then the cloud may be an option. However, this can get expensive the more footage you store.

And finally, the last drawback to a DIY home security camera system is the power source. While many big companies have battery-powered HD cameras, DIY solutions often need continuous power and don’t have a battery option. While power banks are a solution for some instances, they are not permanent fixes.

In conclusion, making your own hidden home security cameras can be a cost-effective way to protect your property. Experiment with options and placements which is a great advantage of doing this yourself. Just remember to respect the privacy of your neighbors.

Disclaimer: The Secure Dad LLC does not condone, endorse, or support the use of spy cameras or any form of unauthorized recording, including the recording of individuals without their explicit and informed consent. The use of spy cameras or any other surveillance devices for the purpose of invading someone's privacy, infringing upon their personal space, or recording them without their knowledge and consent may violate applicable laws and regulations, as well as ethical considerations. This content is for general information purposes only.


Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.


Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

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