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Make Ring Footage Better: Can You Enhance Or Upscale Recordings?

Ring’s smart cameras and doorbells are supposed to give you near instant video so you can keep track of your home, but what happens when the pics and videos Ring cameras take are too distorted to see anything useful?

Ring pictures and videos can be enhanced by first making sure you’re getting the best quality images you can by improving lighting and the angle your camera is at. You can then use software like Photoshop to improve the brightness, contrast, and sharpness of an image. Your last option would be to switch to a dedicated 4k security camera system from a third-party brand.

Let’s clean up Ring Doorbell images using a few clever tricks and some smart security options.

A Few Facts (And Myths) About Enhancing Images

Using VLC Player's "Interactive Zoom" feature to zoom in on part of a Ring.com video clip.
Some of VLC Player’s adjustments and effects

Whether we’re talking science fiction or your favorite detective procedural show, you’ve definitely watched a scene of someone quickly enhancing a heavily pixelated image using some magical computer software. However, the realities of enhancing images are very far from what we get on TV.

While we definitely have a few ways that we can improve, enhance, and upscale video recordings and still photos, we don’t have the technology that would allow us to take a blocky pixelated image and turn it into 4K. Even the best AI are a little rough around the edges when it comes to enhancing footage.

There’s an old programming phrase that really conveys the message: “garbage in, garbage out.” When you start with a heavily distorted image, there’s a limit to how much you can accurately clean it up.

So, if your Ring camera has been taking pics that look like they came off of a budget digital camera from the 90s that had been a little water damaged, what should you do?

The truth is that we only have a few options for cleaning up smart camera images. These can create noticeable improvements, but each one has its trade-offs.

How to Enhance Ring Footage

A cat captured during daytime on my Ring Doorbell Pro
Spotted a cat burglar? Can the footage be ‘enhanced’? Let’s find out…

There are plenty of reasons why you want to enhance the footage that you’re getting from your Ring camera. This can help you to better identify who’s at the door and give you an extra layer of home security when you know that you can clearly see who’s coming and going.

Let’s cover some easy, and interesting, steps for enhancing the images that you get off of your Ring camera.

Improve Your Lighting

The first solutions that we’re going to look at are how you can improve the video and pictures you’re getting from your Ring camera. We’re going to employ some basic photography 101 to ensure that you’re getting the best images possible before we try and correct any problems with the images themselves.

Ask any photographer, and they will tell you that it’s all about lighting. The same is true for the videos and pictures you are getting from your Ring security cameras.

You want to make sure that your Ring security camera is getting enough light during the day time to make sure that the subjects that appear in a frame can be adequately illuminated. We see a lot of Ring videos from dark porches that only show shadowy figures rather than well-lit individuals.

You also want to make sure that your Ring Doorbell camera is properly set up for night time photography. There are two things we need to consider to get great nighttime images from Ring cameras.

The first is Ring Color Night Vision. This is an automated process that adds color to night vision scenes. Ring achieves this by having an algorithm use any available color information to “paint” the rest of the images:

The color night vision option within the Ring app
The color night vision option within the Ring app

This setting can help add valuable detail to your videos and pictures, but it might cause accuracy problems. Ring Color Night Vision tends to bias towards blue, green, and yellow because the sky, plantlife, and the yellow glow of street lamps all add a lot of color to nighttime images.

The next factor is how Ring night vision works. Ring night vision uses infrared lights to illuminate scenes without disturbing humans and most animals. However, bright lights, including street lights or your neighbors lighting, can wash out the infrared image.

You can adjust your Ring camera to make the most out of your lighting whether it’s night or day.

Change Angles

The next thing that you want to consider is the angles that your Ring cameras are pointed at. You want to make sure that you’re able to get as much information in frame as possible.

If you find that you frequently get shots of delivery drivers and guests that don’t get their faces in frame, you want to adjust the placement of your cameras so if you get a clear look at who’s at the door. Ring sell wedge and corner kits to change the horizontal and vertical angle of your Ring Doorbell, whilst Ring’s cameras can often be adjusted via the ball joint:

Ring Floodlight Cam ball mount moves freely when loosened
A close-up view of the Ring Floodlight Cam’s ball joint (gen 1)

You also want to consider what information you’re getting in frame for your images and videos. We see a lot of people with their Ring cameras pointed at the street watching people walk by on sidewalks and cars drive by on the road, but this might not be as helpful as it seems.

For better home security and personal convenience, you want to make sure that your Ring cameras are facing your own doors or windows so that you get the most useful information from your recordings. It’s better to clearly catch someone walking up to your door than a blurry image of them running away.

Use Photo Editing Software

Sharpening an image in Photoshop
Sharpening an image in Photoshop

You can also take the images and video you can get from your Ring cameras and edit them in photo editing software to enhance their resolution.

Any image editing software, like Photoshop, should be able to quickly and easily bring out some more detail in the images you’ve been capturing. Here’s how it works.

  • Use edits and effects like sharpen to improve image quality.
  • Enhance the brightness and contrast to make details stand out.
  • Try to use any features that improve highlights or reduce shadows to make it easier to see details in your image.
  • Photoshop also recently rolled out Super Resolution, which is a pretty nifty way of taking a low-res image and turning it into a higher quality, high-res image.

Alternatively, the “Image Size” box in Photoshop offers some nice upscaling options – as the below video shows:

You can find similar programs that can do these edits on video as well. Ring cameras take .mp4 format video and nearly every video editing software can handle that format.

Alternatively you can pause the recording at a certain point (such as when it’s showing someone’s face), and press “Print Screen” to grab a still image. Then you can use Photoshop (or similar programs) on that still image, enhancing the footage as best as you can.

It all depends whether you want to enhance the entire video clip, or just pull out specific detail at one point (such as someone’s face).

Try an AI Enhancer (But Your Mileage May Vary)

There are plenty of AI enhancers available online that you can use to improve the image quality from a Ring camera.

An AI image enhancer uses a series of sophisticated algorithms to automatically detect features, like numbers, letters, and faces, and improve their visibility in an image. This can be a great way to quickly get some more detail, but there are some considerations you should keep in mind before relying on them too heavily.

These AI image enhancers work by having their algorithms built on a series of training images. The algorithms use these images to develop an understanding of what to look for in other pictures. The biggest downside here is that if something is left out of the training images, the algorithm just doesn’t know it exists.

Here’s a great example that is only a little oversimplified. If you train an AI image enhancer using only pictures of Amazon boxes, it might think that every box should have an Amazon logo on it. This could cause errors and limitations in how it enhances poor quality images by, in our example, trying to clumsily add an Amazon logo to every box.

These are great tools, but you can also just opt for getting better images from the word go.

Some AI Enhancement Examples

To give some concrete examples, I took a frame grab from Ring Floodlight Cam footage – of me holding a Dremel box up:

AI image upscaler base image
AI image upscaler base image

I then ran this through UpscalePics:

AI image upscaler UpscalePics
AI image upscaler UpscalePics

And VanceAI:

AI image upscaler VanceAI
AI image upscaler VanceAI

And finally Icons8’s AI Upscaler:

AI image upscaler Icons8
AI image upscaler Icons8

Whilst they all show some improvement, I wouldn’t say that they are groundbreakingly amazing (VanceAI seemed better than the others though). Remember what we said earlier: “garbage in, garbage out”?

Okay, whilst my awesome face clearly isn’t “garbage”, the original image wasn’t massively high quality – so an AI enhancer can only do so much. Nonetheless, these tools might help a bit – especially if they allow you to just about make out some detail that you couldn’t previously.

Switch to the Ring Doorbell Pro 2

The box for the Ring Doorbell Pro 2
The box for the Ring Doorbell Pro 2

The Ring Doorbell Pro 2 features plenty of upgrades that make it well worth the decision for people who already have a Ring doorbell. For our purposes, there’s one feature that really stands out from the rest.

The Ring Doorbell Pro 2 is the first Ring Doorbell to feature a head-to-toe camera. This is a wide-angle lens that easily captures the entire person when they come to your doorbell. This is an ideal way to get more information in a single image:

The head to toe view of the Ring Doorbell Pro 2
The head to toe view of the Ring Doorbell Pro 2

You won’t have to worry about making a trade-off such as watching the stoop for packages or aiming your camera high to see the face of someone at the door. The Ring Doorbell Pro 2 lets you observe everything and everyone that’s coming to visit.

Getting Higher Resolution Footage With Other Brands

We’ve got another option that we can take advantage of all together. Why do all the work to enhance footage when you can just get amazing images without all the extra effort?

Unfortunately, this means leaving the Ring brand behind. There are plenty of advantages and reasons why you should choose Ring, but if you’re looking for the best overall camera quality, there are other brands that you should go for first.

Let’s take a look at other smart security cameras that simply offer better footage than you can get with Ring.

Nest Security Cameras

The Nest IQ security cameras are some of the best options out there on the market. They function incredibly similar to what you expect from Ring security cameras, but they’re designed to offer a much higher image quality than Ring.

There are three features that we need to talk about when it comes to Nest security cameras and image quality. We need to look at their Zoom feature, the enhance setting, and optical zoom that they use:

  • Nest IQ security cameras allow you to use a pinching gesture to zoom in on images. This won’t change the image that’s being recorded, but you will be able to zoom in to catch details as they appear.
  • The enhanced feature it’s pretty unique when it comes to Nest security cameras. Essentially, the enhance feature keeps the camera zoomed in 24/7. It not only records as if you were zoomed in, but gives you much better detail while recording. The enhance feature doesn’t mean that you won’t be getting the same wide-angle shot. It’s a trade-off between getting a wider angle and getting more detail in your images.
  • Some of the higher-end Nest security cameras also feature an optical zoom. Optical zoom physically moves the camera lens to get a closer shot. Digital Zoom attempts to upscale images and can result in pixelation and other distortions. The takeaway here is that optical zoom is always better when it comes to clarity.

4k Security Cameras

A Reolink 4k PoE camera mounted below my garage roofline
A Reolink 4k PoE camera mounted below my garage roofline

There are also plenty of other brands that offer 4K security cameras. These will capture the highest possible quality, but they often come with fewer features than Ring or Nest cameras are able to offer.

Here’s a few security cameras that work with Alexa, Google, or Siri and also offer 4K footage.

  • Lorex
  • Swann SWDVK
  • Reolink offer a dozen 4K cameras…
  • .. as do ANNKE!
  • Arlo Ultra 2
  • Amcrest 4k Security Camera (dedicated system with fewer smart features)
About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

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