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Home > Reviews > Covert Imagery and Photography

Covert Imagery and Photography

Author Peter Jenkins

ISBN No 9780 953 537853

Review date 30/06/2022

No of pages 224

Publisher Intel Publishing

Publisher URL

Year of publication 03/08/2015


Covert Imagery and Photography, by Peter Jenkins, published by Intel Publishing, 224 pages, paperback, £19.99, ISBN 9780 953 537853

Our Review


£ 19.99

Peter Jenkins’ latest book about doing surveillance, Covert Imagery and Photography, is as accomplished as the rest - and anyone who uses a camera can profit from it, writes Mark Rowe.

If you are an investigator or a security consultant, your client is most likely not paying for your skills or CV, or your turn of phrase in your written report; he’s only interested in (and will judge you on) the photograph of what he’s interested in. The ‘money shot’ as Peter Jenkins puts it. We can judge any book about photography by its style, and this one looks gorgeous.

If you are an investigator for an insurance company that’s looking into a personal injury or other claim, as Peter says the surveillance operator will best shoot with video rather than a stills camera, to capture movement (if someone’s claiming they’re off work with a bad back). Peter says he’s happiest using a stills camera; though he’s come across many surveillance operators who use video all the time. “Part of me thinks this is out of laziness as the off the shelf camcorders are fully automatic, easy to use and not very technical, unlike stills. The best way to improve your technique is to actually watch the footage after you have shot it and learn by your mistakes. The video is your product and is what you are selling to your client - it has to be first class.”

Hence this book. Peter talks us through from the very basics, likening the modern camera to a computer; you have to know your way around the settings, in the stills camera’s case the shutter and aperture, metering and exposure, besides lenses. As for which manufacturer to go for, Peter says he uses Canon, though he has also used (and praises) Nikon and Sony. Peter has long been a North Yorkshire-based trainer of covert surveillance (and counter-surveillance), offering IQ-approved and BTEC courses, for instance in foot and mobile surveillance. Besides the thought that this book is a bargain compared with the price of one of Peter’s courses, one point to ponder is that you might save the cost of a course (one and five-day courses are offered in ‘digital photography and imagery’) simply by learning that a less costly camera will be suitable for you. His company also is a preferred supplier to the Ministry of Defence Career Transition Partnership and indeed Peter has a military background.

Having taken your ‘money shot’, including in low light, Peter goes on to image processing. Although Peter has been around long enough to have done work in darkrooms with film, he wishes digital had been around then. The sub-title is ‘The investigators’ and enforcement officers’ guide to covert digital photography’ and as he shows, you can do remarkable things to bring out colour or improve brightness. All that said, knowing your way around the snazzy software and settings is no use if you’ve taken a shaky or blurry image - let alone if you delete it by mistake on your laptop back at base. Some simple advice is to hold your breath when you click. Another wise point from Peter is practice - whether you have a new camera, or you’re doing covert video for the first time with the camcorder in a bag (as you can hardly walk around a supermarket filming).

Covert CCTV may be your only way (and besides a saving on manpower and expense) to watch and record theft from premises or unauthorised access. Peter shows how to conceal and use a camera in a smoke detector (for example) or on a tree (not forgetting the cabling, and infra-red floodlamp for night use). And software can identify activity so that you don’t have to trawl through hours of nothing happening.

If your evidence is for use in legal proceedings, Peter has a chapter including a useful flow chart of an ‘audit trail for preservation of evidential images’. And he takes you through the law on trespass, privacy, harassment and data protection. A final chapter on ‘covert practice’ includes drones (useful for getting aerial images, but not covert), or commercial satellite images, useful for instance in a land dispute (as featured in the April 2015 issue of Professional Security).

Peter shows that you don’t have to splurge out thousands on a camera, but to get the best out of it - that ‘money shot’ of the car number plate or face, even though you’re the other side of a fence or woodland or at a distance or in poor light, or behind glass and hidden in a parked van - you do have to know how to use it to best effect, rather than trust to ‘automatic’ settings.

To sum up, Peter is as excellent on the mechanics of covert photography (such as how to use a tripod) as what you could call the ‘soft’ skills, staying within the law and not dropping a clanger (such as not being ‘third party aware’ - if you’re on a retail park, with a long lens camera, a cash in transit crew will understandably report you to the police, even if you’re not interested in them). Peter ends by likening a camera to a musical instrument; if you take photos for work, why not do some recreational photography, of sport, wildlife or the moon? Be creative. Peter wishes he had been when he was younger, and is catching up. As this fine book illustrates.

About the author

Peter Jenkins is a member of the Association of British Investigators and the author of related books including Surveillance Tradecraft. Visit