8 Tips for Filming Animals From a Distance

Whether you want to simply share a picture of a recently spotted big buck to your family, friends, guide on social media, there are a few tricks to making this footage the best it can be.

by posted on September 5, 2022
Bachman Digiscoping 5

Whether you want to simply share a picture of a recently spotted big buck to your family, friends, guide on social media, there are a few tricks to making this footage the best it can be. Digiscoping, as it’s called, has been around for a long time. but it’s becoming increasingly popular. Basically, you’re using the glass from your binoculars or spotting scope as a lens to get stunning up-close video.

The video or photo captured through digiscoping can be great to post on social media, show your kids, husband or family as well as with guides or outfitters. It’s also a helpful tool for others to show you close-up footage filmed from afar of a specific buck or bull that you should or shouldn’t shoot. It’s a tool that will help you examine the antlers, determine age and more.

If you’ve ever tried zooming in your phone five or six times you can see how horrible the clarity and quality become. The good news is with the glass of a spotting scope you can zoom in way more and still get excellent photos or videos. However, there are a few tips to make it even better.

1. Use a sturdy tripod, and buy the best tripod you can afford.

2. Plug in headphones and tap the volume button to start/stop video or take a photo. This acts as a shutter for your phone but doesn’t cause the entire setup to wiggle and make the picture blur or shake at the beginning the video.

3. Don’t zoom much on your phone. I personally zoom just a bit so I get no black on the edges, but I never zoom in all the way to 2x. It may look OK on the phone, but it really degrades the quality of the video or photo. For best quality footage, always try to stay as close to 1x as possible.

4. Keep your spotting scope zoomed out. Also, I don’t usually push all the way in on my spotting scope, as I find I get a better image on the widest possible setting.

5. Tap the screen to lock in your focus so it doesn’t snap in and out of focus. This is especially necessary when it becomes lower light because the camera will have a hard time finding the focus. Simply touch and hold the yellow box in the picture of your phone and it will say AE/AF lock. You can then lock in the focus and also manually adjust the brightness or darkness of your image.

6. Keep you lenses clean. Many hunts can be extremely dusty and dirty but keeping a clean lens is super important not only for your optics, but for the quality of your video.

7. Don’t let the footage roll too long. Shorter videos are better and easier to organize. Typically, I like the videos to be 1 to 2 minutes maximum. And if I get a really exceptional photo or video, I "favorite" it as soon as I stop recording so it's easier to find later. If you’re trying to film someone else’s hunt, this is also a great way to accomplish that without having to be right there with them. Stay back and film through the spotting scope to capture all the action, but allow them to go on the stock alone.

8. Find an easy-to-use adapter. For years I’ve used a phone scope, which has an adapter that fits on your spotting scope, along with an adapter made specifically for your model phone. The drawback is I have to take off the case on my phone to put this adapter on, it’s bulky to leave on and barely fits in my pocket, and if I buy a new phone, I have to purchase a different adapter than the season before.

This year I’m trying out a new option called the MagView, which uses a small magnet that sticks on the back of a phone. What’s great about this option is I don’t have something bulky on my phone throughout hunting season. The MagView is light and very quick to start filming through my spotting scope or binoculars.

If you’re someone who has a nice camera with detachable lenses there are also options to film and take pictures using your camera body. I use the Swarovski Optik adapter the TLS Apo which goes on like a lens, slides over a spotting scope and allows me to use my DSLR for stunning photos and video without having to spend thousands extra on lenses for my camera.

For years I’ve used the power of digiscoping for animals around the country. I’ve filmed countless videos that have been used in my show, which we brought back to show our son Jax—everything from brown bear to elk to deer and even birds and butterflies. The options are endless and it’s a fun hobby to use both during hunting season and throughout the off-season.

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