How Do Trail Cameras Work: Trail Camera Buying Guide For Beginners


Thanks to technological advances, trail cameras have become an extremely important hunting tool. Trail cameras have become so useful that even security-conscious homeowners and outdoor photographers are taking advantage of the equipment.

To choose an ideal trail camera, you need to know how do trail cameras work. In this trail camera buying guide, we will focus on looking at some of the main factors you need to consider when choosing a trail camera. To answer the question “how do trail cameras work?” ideally, we will explain how each factor will affect the functionality of the trail camera.

Factors You Need to Consider When Buying a Trail Camera

1. Picture Quality

If you like to go backpacking or hiking, chances are, you have already invested in a hiking and backpacking camera. Every time you pull the equipment out of the camera backpack, your goal is to probably take excellent photos the picture quality is one of the most important considerations when you are purchasing any type of camera.

The picture-quality factors that you consider when investing in a backpacking camera are quite similar to those you consider when purchasing a trail camera. However, when choosing a trail camera, you may want to consider additional factors. The factors include:


If you are reading a trail camera buying guide for the first time, you may not be familiar with the term megapixels (MP). If this is the case, you may want to think of megapixels as the building blocks of any photo. The more megapixels a trail camera has, the sharper the image it takes.

If you intend to use your trail camera for outdoor photography, then, super-high megapixels may be important. However, if you just need to use your trail camera for scouting or home security, you can still get a good-quality picture with a lower count.

Burst Mode

In burst mode, the trail camera will let you take multiple pictures in a row pretty quickly. Some trail cameras will have a fixed number of images they take once triggered while others give you the freedom to set the number of images you would like them to take.

Time-Lapse Mode

In time-lapse mode, the trail camera will automatically take a picture at certain preset intervals – for example, every 5 minutes. With many models, you should be able to choose how often the camera takes pictures and the interval in between the snaps.

If you do not like to carry backpacking food while heading out into the wilderness, this feature can make it easier for you to land food – it can help with your hunting. It will make it possible for you to see when and from which direction your preferred game enters the chosen spot, how long it lingers, and when and where it exits the spot.

It is worth noting that most standard trail cameras will have a time-lapse mode that works only during the day. If you would like the time-lapse to be operational while you are relaxing on your sleeping bag at night, you may need to invest in a higher-end trail camera.

Time and Date Stamps

If you are already familiar with the answers to the question “how do trail cameras work?”, you should be able to set your camera to attach important data to every image, including the date and the time the photo was taken. Some cameras do add temperature, the moon phase, and even the camera ID. If you would like to pin down the ideal time to put on your hiking boots and go hunting, then, you may want to invest in a trail camera that can attach as much information as possible.

2. Video

More trail cameras are adding the option to capture videos when triggered. In this section of our trail camera buying guide, we will show you the factors to consider when purchasing a trail camera that can capture video:


Simply defined, resolution refers to how crisp the recorded video appears – the higher the resolution, the sharper the video. 640 x 480 resolution is considered standard while the 720p or 1080p are considered high definition. A few trail cameras are available in the 4K resolution.


Depending on the model, video length can range between 3 and 300 seconds. Most trail cameras will allow you to choose the video length.


Most trail cameras may include the audio feature. However, this feature is not always necessary. For example, the sound is not important if you are using your camera to track the game. However, if you are using the camera for home security, the sound is crucial.

Time-Lapse Video Mode

This allows you to record short videos at certain time intervals. Keep in mind that time-lapse video mode is different from the time-lapse photo mode.

Hybrid Mode

This feature combines taking both short videos and photos at certain intervals – you get the best of both worlds with just a single trigger. It is worth noting that the mode is only available on the high-end trail cameras.

3. Detection Range


Simply defined, this is how far away the subject can be and still trigger the camera to take the photo. With a longer detection, covering more ground is easier – this is perfect for surveying a large field. If, however, you intend to survey more enclosed places after grabbing your wilderness survival kit and maybe your hiking backpack and heading out on a hunting trip, a short detection range should be enough.

4. Recovery Time and Trigger Speed

We wouldn’t have done a good job of telling you how do trail cameras work if we did not talk about the trigger speed and recovery time. These 2 features work hand-in-hand to ensure that your camera can take several pictures without missing any action:

Trigger Speed

This how fast the camera takes the photo after detecting motion – basically, the faster the better. The best trail cameras will boast trigger speeds of less than 0.5 seconds.

Recovery Time

This is the time the camera needs to reset itself so that it can take another photo. To avoid missing snapshots, you may want to invest in a trail camera featuring a faster recovery rate.

5. Flash

One thing you probably already knew even before reading this trail camera buying guide is that cameras need light to take pictures. If you have hiked at night with your normal camera and maybe night-vision binoculars, you know that light is extremely important when it is dark. Below are the light options you may have to choose from:

White Flash

This is bright, white light. While it can help with taking full-color images, it can spook the wild game.

Low Glow

Also called Infrared or Red Glow. This is a dim but still visible red glow. To see the light, however, you will need to look directly at the camera. The light will produce black and white photos at night.

No Glow

Also referred to as Black Flash or Black Infrared. This does not emit any visible light – this eliminates the chances of scaring the game away. In addition to being useful when you are hunting, it can help in the home security set-up since it won’t alert anyone of the camera presence. The light produces black and white images.

Flash Range

This is how far the object should be for it to be illuminated. Higher flash ranges will yield more information.

6. Viewing the Footage

Once the trail camera has captured the footage, you will have a couple of options to view it. The options include:

Integrated Viewing Screen

This allows you to flip through the footage as you would do with a digital camera. While the viewing screen may be small, it makes things much easier when viewing the footage on the field.

No Screen

This option is great if you would like to save on cost. This, however, means that you have to remove the SD card, plug it into your computer to view the video/photos.

Wireless Download

High-end trail cameras will allow you to download the footage over the internet. Others will text, or email you the photos. This method is ideal if you do not want to go to the field.

7. Storage

Almost every trail camera will use an SD card to store your images and videos. The capacity of the SD card you invest in will depend on camera settings – for example, if you have set the camera to capture 8 MP pictures, a 32GB SD card should be able to store approximately 11,000 pictures.

8. Power

A long-lasting and reliable power supply is the key to capturing numerous videos and images. In terms of power, you will have to main options:

Lithium Batteries

Compared to alkaline batteries, lithium batteries last for an extended period and perform better in a cold environment. Depending on the camera and the degree of activeness, lithium batteries can last for more than a year.

Solar Panel

As long as the sun is shining, the solar panel should be able to power your trail camera indefinitely. Any trail camera model featuring an external power port should accept the solar panel.

Globo Surf Overview

If you have been wondering how do trail cameras work, you should find all the answers in this article. The factors we have outlined in this trail camera buying guide should hopefully help you find a trail camera that fulfills all your needs. Keep in mind that although we did not mention things like budget and preference in our guide, these are factors you may want to consider when selecting your trail camera.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. A Guide to Common Trail Camera Features,
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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!