Surveillance – What a private investigator can do

One is the areas that many private investigators work in is “surveillance”. This involves recording photographs or video footage of something of interest. This can involve, but is not limited to capturing photographic or video evidence of a person, building or area.

Surveillance Pre-Digital dDays

In time past a P.I. would sit around and rely on trying to capture a photo of the required subject from a reasonably close distance. Due to technical limitations of the equipment of the time, they would be required to stay very close to what they needed to capture and hope to get the best photo they could onto film. The risk of getting caught was high and the chance of taking that all important photo and it turning out blurry was high. This would be something you wouldn’t be able to check until you had the photos developed. Fast forward to the present day and this has all changed in a major way.

old camera
Old 35mm film in SLR camera

Modern Surveillance

Let’s have a look at what a modern private investigator can achieve using some modern technology. First up, digital cameras have changed everything. They allow almost unlimited shots that can be checked instantly. They have amazing auto focus options as well as manual functions that allow a great shot almost every time. A P.I. can feel confident that if they know their camera well, it will take a great shot every time. Wifi and blue tooth as well as Internet allow for almost instant transfer of images to a client. An investigator can get that “money shot” they are after, and the client can have that shot in 30 seconds straight to their phone or computer.

The next big leap in technology is zoom. Zoom allows you to be a long way from what you are trying to photograph and then zoom it to get the shot. A photographer wanting a huge amount of zoom used to require a massive lens the size of their arm. Incredible zoom can be achieved with very small cameras these days that don’t stand out or look out of the ordinary. A modern private investigator could be hundreds of meters away from their target and still get a close up photo that is clear and detailed. The chances of getting caught can be a lot less when trying to get that all important image for your client.

Below is an example of some zoom in stages. It is shot from the original distance and then closer, and then zoomed in very close, and then extremely zoomed.

*note the difference in zoom from the furthest 1st shot to the closest 4th shot, and how good the zoomed in quality holds up.

Looking at the above photos shows that a Private Investigator can be quite some distance from a location and still get great shots. The photos were taken with a small hand held digital SLR camera, the size you would see any tourist walking around with and shot by hand with no tripod. Any investigator worth their salt will have a camera that can do this.

Below is another example.

Extreme zoom is not a new thing, but being able to do it with such small equipment that is still clear and shot by hand is! If you need that all important photo, a good P.I. will get it, and with much less chance of getting caught than in previous times.

Video Surveillance

The next level from this is video. It’s great to be able to take amazing zoomed photos, but what if video evidence is required? The news here is also good. Modern cameras can contain incredible amounts of zoom and fit in the palm of your hand. Again, a private investigator can achieve incredible video for a client from long distance, while blending in like a tourist and not getting caught.

The below video is a great example of some private investigator video capabilities.


These may be some extreme cases of zoom, but they do show off what can be achieved.  If this is some of the photos and videos that can be obtained from such a long distance, imagine what can be achieved from closer distances.

This brings us to to the last section of our surveillance blog. Mobile phone cameras!

The Emergence of Smart Phone

Mobile phones have changed everything, much like digital cameras previously did. An investigator can use a smart phone to conduct close up surveillance without standing out. Nobody looks twice at a person on a phone taking a photo anymore. Add to this the incredible quality of mobile phone cameras, and it’s made it even easier for a P.I. to get photos or videos from a close range. It’s not worth going into much detail regarding cell phones as almost everyone knows what a smart mobile phone can do these days. But it needs to be mentioned, as its a big part on the industry these days.

Other benefits are time, date and location stamping on images or video. This can show proof of when and where they were taken. Being able to instantly send these images via sms, email, instant message or social media also can keep a client up to date as to exactly what is going on. This can result in the client or customer feeling confident they are getting the work they are paying for, and that the investigator is where they claim to be working and when.

mobile phone photo
Photos & video and can be easily obtained via smart phones. 

If you are considering hiring a private investigator, but are not sure if they might be able to get the required photos or video, then this blog may have given some confidence of what can be achieved. Feel free to ask some questions about an investigator’s capabilities and equipment when you call. If they sound like they know their equipment and are able to talk to you about it confidently, then they should be able to get that bit closer to getting your desired results. It’s important that a P.I. is keeping up with modern trends when it comes to surveillance equipment.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the types of gear that a private investigator may use while conducting surveillance. It is a good starting place, and if you really need that photo of a cheating partner, or you need to make sure a person is with who they say they are, then they might be able to get that proof using modern surveillance equipment.

Make sure when contacting a private investigator, that they can confidently get those all important photos. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but great equipment is a great starting point.

Marc Pikrt is a Licensed Private Investigator and runs the Gold Coast based Paradise Investigations.

2 thoughts on “Surveillance – What a private investigator can do

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