What Are the Glowing Red Lights on a Trail Camera?

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Trail cameras and security cameras are quite similar in many ways. Both help you to see things clearly when otherwise your eyes would see complete darkness. You can use some cameras for either purpose. The red lights at night on a trail camera make this possible.

You may have questions about infrared light at night, and the red lights that show. What are they for, and what can you or should you do about them? It might seem to be a good idea to turn them off completely – or not?

What is a Night-Vision Camera with LED Lights and How Does It Work?

So-called night-vision cameras can detect objects moving in low-light conditions. Even when there is no visible light, they pick up the “warmth” of infrared light. This “warmth” sets the camera off and it produces black and white pictures from it.

Some night-vision cameras can detect objects over 175 feet away, and capture them photographically.

This type of trail camera has many strong points. It’s reliable, uses very little energy, and is silent; the images generated are clearer. There are no old-style lightbulbs to blow, and recharge between each photo is quick.

Scottish Wildcat Caught on Trail Camera
Scottish Wildcat Caught on a Trail Camera (Image: Facebook)

How the Red Lights on a Trail Camera Use IR to Make Images

Each LED shines infrared light in a line, and many lines beam to the object. Then the lens of the camera picks up the reflections shining back. This produces an image, just the same way as a daylight photograph is taken.

The human eye cannot see the infrared light (its wavelength is usually 850 nanometers). There is a small amount of visible red light generated as well. This other light is why one can see the LEDs shining.

People may think of the flashing LED that cars used to have to deter burglars. Perhaps you’ve seen mounted security cameras with bright red LEDs. Night-vision camera LEDs are not anywhere as noticeable.

How Can I Turn Off the Red Glow of LED Lights?

You may still be worried by that light: won’t it disturb animals, or attract insects? Will burglars see it and steal the equipment? As per the explanation, the visible light in the LEDs is an inevitable by-product.

Think about the purpose of the trail camera and exactly when you need it. Is it possible to turn the red lights off? – you may ask. Many night-vision cameras give you the option of turning off the LED lights.

In the setup menu, you should be able to find this setting option easily. Your choice will toggle between “On” and “Off”. Choose “Off”.

Deer Caught on a Browning Trail Camera
Deer Caught on a Browning Trail Camera (Image: Browning )

Workarounds for Cameras Without the “Disable IR LEDs” Option

If your camera doesn’t have this option, simply hide the LEDs with black tape. Of course, if you do that, the trail camera no longer works in the dark! The same goes for switching them off by programming.

This could be useful when night-time photography is not needed. Or with animals that are spooked by tiny, dull lights at night.

Here is some other advice. You don’t point a security camera with LED lights through a window, because of reflection. Likewise, consider if water or ice will cause unwanted glare with trail camera lights.

Can I Get a Night-Vision Camera Without LED Red Glow?

At this time it isn’t really possible to have night-vision without some visible light. However, there is another workaround that offers an interesting solution.

It is possible to use what is called a “supplementary IR illuminator”. Firstly, you switch off the trail camera’s LED infrared lights as explained before. Then, install the supplementary infrared equipment at a distance, pointing to the same target zone.

These illuminators exist to help cameras at night. They can be mounted high or some distance away, perhaps where less noticeable to animals. At any rate, the trail camera and its infrared LEDs are now separate.

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