Most surveillance cameras (a.k.a. trail cameras) store the pictures on a SD card. These can be viewed in some digital cameras, specially made picture viewers or on a computer. This is the best option since it is easy to miss something critical on a smaller screen. If your computer does not have a SD card slot, you can purchase an SD card reader. If you don’t have a computer or digital camera, you can bring your SD card to a photo booth such as those available at CVS, Target or Walmart.
Viewing pictures can be very time consuming depending on the amount of animal activity. If you find yourself viewing hundreds to thousands of pictures, you can reduce time by viewing multiple pictures at once. Open the SD card picture folder, and then change the picture icons to “Extra Large Icons.”
At times it can be surprisingly difficult to determine what you are getting pictures of. If you are using an infrared camera, then all night pictures will be in black and white. This can make determining color patterns particularly difficult. Of particular importance, some colors such as orange do not show up in infrared.
Adjusting Camera Settings to Maximize Success
Most surveillance cameras offer several set-up options including:
- Photo versus video
- Number of pictures taken at once (i.e. a set)
- Length of time between pictures (or picture sets)
I usually recommend starting with photos over videos because it is much easier to look through a large number of pictures versus videos. Given the option, you should set the camera to 2-3 pictures at a time and then a break of 15-30 seconds between sets of pictures. If you are getting too many pictures of other wildlife, which often happens with squirrels, raccoons, or crows, then you may want to reduce the number of pictures taken at a time or increase the time between picture sets. You are less likely to miss taking a picture of your lost pet if you keep the time between pictures (or sets) minimal. Unfortunately, some cameras are stuck at 30 seconds to 1 minute between picture sets.
Setting the camera to take 2-3 pictures at a time will give you multiple pictures of each animal, which should make it easier to identify your lost pet. This usually isn’t a problem with lost dogs, but there are often many loose and feral cats in the area of most lost cat searches. Distinguishing cats on a camera can be challenging. If you do get pictures of a cat and you’re not sure if it is your cat, then you might consider switching to video to get a better view of the cat.