How do Trail Cameras Work?

Brad Robinson
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Trail Cameras

Trail cameras are best known for the capture images of wild animals in real time. They are extensively used by wildlife photographers. In a hunting attempt, these cameras are critical in identifying appropriate locations to leave in the pursuit.

They transmit their signals to satellite so that the current views of the camera can be monitored from any remote location.

However in the modern times, these trail cameras are used by the home and institutional owners for keeping an eye on the internal misdeeds like theft and vandalism.

Various types of trail cameras are available in the markets, which have different features. Wireless, wired, solar powered, night vision, and infrared cameras are most common types in the market.

What should you consider?

Trail cameras are a great way to see and document wildlife in your area.

There are hundreds of companies selling a variety of trail cameras out there so finding the best one can be a little tricky.

A few things to look for are durability, battery life, and a clear photograph. You can use trail cameras for both short-term and long-term monitoring.

If you just need a camera to keep an eye on small game in your yard, you need a short-term camera. You’ll want to find a camera that will trigger a shot whenever an animal passes through the designated area.

A long-term camera is useful if you want to monitor wildlife in an area for a long time. These cameras have the ability to store photos and often comes with a remote control that allows you to download photos from it.


A trail cam is a motion-activated camera that can capture on film wildlife in their natural habitat, at a set time interval, and for a set amount of time.

For example 3-5 pictures every five minutes for 4 hours at 0.3-second trigger speed.

Visually, a trail cam is basically a digital camera that is not too small nor too big. Picqued by motion, it takes pictures of its subject when in motion and releases it once the subject has stopped moving.

Some of the newest trail cams come with night vision that allows you to get pictures at night or in low light conditions.

Another feature that is becoming commonly used in trail cams is the “Burst Mode”. Burst mode is a series of pictures taken after the footstep trigger. The idea is that the trail cam takes a picture just as the animal steps out of its camouflage and it follows the animal with a series of pictures.

But there are some warnings, especially for anyone who is planning to buy one for security reasons. Cameras should never be placed where they can be found. This is because they can be used as an easy target by those who want to sabotage the camera.


Or Digital Trail Cameras?

All trail cameras will take a picture when an object moves in front of the lens. Some cameras will take a single picture while others will take several if the object stays in the camera’s view for a defined period of time. More pictures taken translate to less pictures saved so a camera with a time delay will allow you to save more pictures.

Digital cameras have a few advantages over their film counterparts. They allow you to see a picture immediately after it is taken and you can see it on your computer without having to print it. Digital cameras are easier to carry with you in the field and you will not have to worry about running out of film.

The digital cameras may also allow you to take a closer shot of your subject if they are using a motion triggered sensor, but will lose a lot less pictures if they are set to take pictures at a specific distance.

Another advantage of a digital camera is that you can adjust the resolution of the pictures. You can set a digital camera to take pictures as high as 2,300 x 1,700 if you need to take a picture of a very wide-angle scene.

The downside of a digital camera is that it uses memory cards and memory cards can be misplaced or damaged. They also use batteries, and the sensors will need to be replaced after a few years of use.


You’ve seen them on TV commercials and various outdoor sporting shows, but what actually is a cellular trail camera? Sometimes called a digital camera trap, they are a niche product used in the study of wildlife and human intrusions.

Based on game cameras, cellular trail cameras use a single lens, digital camera to capture short span images that allow you to track the movement of wildlife and even human intruders. Cellular trail cameras differ from game cameras in that they are remotely monitored, which provides a use in security purposes, as well.

Cellular trail cameras have become especially popular with hunters, since they make it easier for them to determine the patterns of game animals.

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What attract cellular trail cameras to hunters? Here are some of the advantages to having these cameras:

  • Ability to remotely see and review captured images
  • Easy-to-setup anywhere
  • Capture and record proof of cameras and animal activity
  • Ultra light weight and can be transported easily

Laser Aim

The general idea about trail cameras is that there are two kinds: laser aiming and infrared. While both of these trail cameras are mostly used in scouting purposes, there are some differences between the two.

Some trail cameras use infrared photography while others use laser aiming. However, both have their own unique characteristics that should be considered by the user when choosing between the two.

Strobe Flash

Vs. Regular LED Daytime Flash

Similar to how a regular camera uses a flash to illuminate a far away object, a trail camera uses the strobe flash during nighttime time-lapse photos. This is to light up the entire time-lapse photo regardless of how dark it is by lighting up the foreground and the background.

If you are not interested in time-lapse images, then there is no need for you to have a trail camera with a strobe flash. But if time-lapse images are important for you, then be sure to check the trail camera’s specifications to see if it has a strobe flash or not.

The daytime flash on the other hand is used to capture animals in low-light conditions, especially in the mornings and the evenings.

This type of flash records high quality images, as it is quite bright and covers the entire view field. This type of flash is not commonly found on newer trail cameras, but it is still a nice feature to have nonetheless.

Wireless Activated

Trail camera photography has helped to revolutionize the game of hunting and wildlife photography.

These cameras are equipped with wireless software that is used to connect to a different device through wireless means. For instance, you could connect the camera to a laptop from a considerable distance and then have it shoot digital photographs.

The camera could also be made to send you the photographs directly from your email. When you do not want to use a wired connection, wireless trail cameras are the way to go.

A wireless connection does not require any wires to be run by you all the way from the camera to the device with which you can connect. This is why wirelessly automated trail cameras are very easy to install.

The cameras are also available in a wireless range of up to a mile in length. The wireless feature makes trail camera photography a very easy task to indulge in.

Besides the wireless connectivity, the cameras are also fitted with motion sensors. Subsequently, they can detect small movements in the area and capture images of the animals that pass nearby.

It may not be easy location of the camera on your part, but the wireless remote is going to be easier.

You can even set the camera to capture pictures or videos of animals within a specific radius. The viewing angle of the camera can be enhanced if you would want to get a wider field of view.


Flash vs. regular flash Infrared flash cameras work by using infrared light to take the desired picture day or night. Without the aid of infrared light, the pictures will be somewhat blurry and unusable.

Infrared light is invisible to human eyes but cameras can pick up the impulses of this light source. The benefits of using an infrared flash camera are that the animal or wildlife will not be as startled or as scared of the flash as they would an ordinary flash camera.

This type of camera will work for both day and night pictures. Since each type of flash will be invisible, animals and wildlife will not be as startled or scared during the picture taking process.

However, infrared cameras do have their disadvantages too.

Although the flash is invisible to human eyes, animals and wildlife can see it. This will come as a very shocking surprise to them in the night or dark, and it can actually scare them off.

Also, infrared cameras will need to be installed in a location which is protected from the weather. This is because infrared flashes are not designed to withstand the rain or other weather conditions. Another disadvantage is that infrared cameras have a lot of false pictures due to other animals like insects or other wildlife.

As the name suggests, these cameras use normal flash to take the pictures at night time or in low light. Sometimes they use a combination of both infrared flash and regular flash.

Sound Producing

Some game camera users will be surprised to find a sound producing animal, such as a snorting deer or a guttural cougar, while reviewing their images.

While this may be disappointing to some, it is normal. Despite being very still, the animal will produce wind noise and sounds as it breathes.

Take a minute to ponder why this is important.

You’re able to get almost complete silence from a game camera because it does not produce its own noise. This means that it will not acturally frighten the animal.

This fact alone increases the likelihood that an animal will return to your camera over and over again.

Not all game camera users will have deer around their houses. But avoid disappointment. This is an excellent way to get a majority of your hunting information from your deer trail camera.

Many hunters will be excited to see sound in the area they have placed their trail camera. They can use the information to determine when a good time to hunt in the area is because they know when certain game will be there.

Security Cameras

Trail cameras have been a popular tool for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts for years now. If you want to know what is happening outside your home, trail cameras can be the answer.

They are placed away from your house and setup to follow the wildlife activity in your backyard. They take pictures of any animal that moves within their range and capture the activity.

Depending on your skill level, trail cams can be placed in a variety of places along the periphery of your property. Otherwise, you can even hide them in trees or other humane traps to capture the animal-being in its natural habitat.

You can check on these cameras any time you want and know exactly what is happening in your backyard.

Trail cameras come in all shapes and sizes but the main thing they have in common is that they use a small camera that is triggered by some sort of movement.

They can be placed on tree stands or roof mounts to photograph any animal that comes within the range of the camera.

Once the photo is taken, you can either view it directly from your phone and be sent a text message when the photo is ready.

If you are using a trail camera for security purposes, you can set them up to send you an email notifying you of any movement.