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How Do Wildlife Cameras Work? Find Out Here!

Written By Nathan
Last Updated June 7, 2021

Wildlife cameras are often known as trail cameras and are used for either security purposes or land surveillance, they can also be used for wildlife watching/filming. 

By placing these trail cameras in specific places around your garden or land you can capture some incredible wildlife footage whether during daylight or at night time. Wildlife cameras allow you to be discreet and leave the animals undisturbed as you monitor them. 

So you may be wondering how these amazing and affordable cameras work? Well, here's how- 

How Wildlife Cameras Work

Wildlife cameras are run by batteries and set in a particular place to capture motion, after the camera has been set for a period of time you can review and see what it’s recorded. 

They can also record motion at night due to their infrared sensor or heat sensor which allows them to film in the dark without disturbing wildlife with a bright flash.

There are some main components listed below- 

Type of recording

A wildlife camera comes with two types of recording; movie or still photos. Using the movie mode on your camera will use up its memory more so keep this in mind when choosing your SD card. You are also able to set the size, quality and duration of your movie.

Motion sensitivity

Most wildlife cameras will allow you to set its motion sensitivity to different levels, this is great when you want to ignore subtle movements such as trees and only have your camera pick up wildlife motion. 

Time lapse 

This is an important feature of a wildlife camera as it allows you to set the camera to take photos at intervals. This means you can track motion without having to use its movie mode or even watch nature grow over time.

Detection ranges

Every wildlife camera comes with a detection range. This determines the area of which the camera will sense an animal and take a picture when triggered. This range can be up to 120 feet away and allow you to capture movement from a distance. 

Trigger mode and recovery speed 

Trigger speed is the time it's going to take your wildlife camera to capture once triggered by motion. 

A wildlife camera's recovery speed means the time it takes to reset itself and take a new picture.

LCD screen

Most wildlife cameras have an LCD screen which allows you to review the pictures and videos it has taken. The screen should also allow you to set the camera's mode and change any of its settings.

If your camera comes with no screen this means you will have to hook it up to a computer to view the pictures, these models often come cheaper.

Infrared sensor/Flash

Wildlife cameras come with an infrared sensor or a flash which allows them to continue to pick up motion at night and record. Some models come with a standard white flash, a low glow or no glow.

What Makes a Good Wildlife Camera?

Now we know the inner workings of a wildlife camera, you may be wondering what features make a model better than others.

There are some standard features you should consider such as the camera's durability and battery life, however there are also other important features that make a wildlife camera the best

Picture quality 

A good wildlife camera will have a high amount of megapixels, this can be ranging from 7mp-10mp for recording. However it must be noted that picture quality is also impacted by the camera's lens, so it's a good idea to check some sample photos from the camera before making a purchase.

Trigger speed

It may sound obvious but the faster your trigger and recovery speed is, the better your wildlife camera will be at shooting. A trigger speed that takes less than 0.5 seconds is great for getting quick snaps in before your animal has disappeared. 


Choose a wildlife camera that has rechargeable lithium batteries as this will last you a long time and save you money in the future. It's also a good idea to make sure your camera displays its battery life so you can always keep the battery fully charged and not miss out on any wildlife shots. 

Infrared sensor

Use a camera that takes pictures with an infrared no glow sensor, not a white flash. This will allow you to get footage at night without spooking the animals.


A good wildlife camera will inevitably have a higher price, but this also means better features such as; better picture quality, trigger speed and a larger detection range. It all depends on your budget and how much you are willing to invest in these wildlife cameras. 


The best wildlife cameras often come with a mounting accessory meaning you can strap your camera easily to a tree or another high place with its straps or bracket for optimum viewing of wildlife. 

Where to Place Your Wildlife Camera 

You can place your wildlife camera anywhere you want however we have a few tips that may help you get the best shots due to positioning. 

  • Go for height- placing your camera higher up gives a larger angle of view and hides the camera well. 
  • Place it low for crawling wildlife- if you're interested in capturing snakes or ants then hide the camera low down on the ground in your garden or land. 
  • Keep it stable- do make sure that wherever you place your camera it's stable. The last thing you need is your camera falling down and scaring the wildlife, or even breaking itself. 

Are Wildlife Cameras for me?

If you are looking for a camera which is durable, waterproof, discreet and can help you wildlife watch with ease, then yes you should definitely consider purchasing a wildlife camera. 

These little gadgets can be used for home security or even just put in your backyard for some home wildlife viewing! 


My name is Nathan Walters and I used to be a Mystery Shopper in my previous life. I love pizza, my 3 cats and fine wines! I also have a strange yet satisfying addiction to Netflix binges :) I am the Director of Best Reviews. I'm blessed to have a team of professionals in most fields who review and test products. Feel free to send me a message using the contact page!
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