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Triggertrap: What does it do?

December 4, 2011

Up to now, we have only given you a pretty high-level overview over the capabilities of the Triggertrap, but as we’ve finished the Prototyping process, things are coming together, and we can tell you in more detail what it’s all about.

To get even more in-depth, check out the Triggertrap User Manual, which has info about all of the below, but written in more of a ‘how to use the Triggertrap’ type of style.


LCD display, touch-sensitive buttons, and it is RED! How can you not like a bright red gadget.

The Triggertrap has have five built-in modes (although you can add your own, if you want to. More about that later). Just as a quick refresher, the modes are:

  • Light trigger
  • Laser trigger
  • Sound trigger
  • Time-lapse
  • Auxiliary

You can select these modes by pressing the Mode button, it’ll cycle through from mode to mode.

Each mode will have certain settings, which you can choose via the Select button. Let’s talk about each mode individually!

The TT has a 3.5mm mini-jack port to connect to your camera

Connecting the Triggertrap to your camera

With a wire - The Triggertrap has a 3.5mm mini jack port. This is where you plug in your camera. Of course, different cameras have different ports where you connect a remote trigger, but as you can see from our supported cameras list, we’re planning to support most types of cameras.

Hell, when I discovered that there were some cameras we couldn’t support out of the box, I went ahead and put together guides for you, so if you’re handy with a soldering iron, you can connect Ricoh cameras, CHDK-hacked cameras, and even flashes directly to the Triggertrap.

I love geeking out and writing, so I’ll be adding more cool Triggertrap hacks whenever I can. Simply keep an eye on the Hacking and Extending Triggertrap category here on

If supported by your camera, you can connect wirelessly via IR.

Wirelessly – In addition to the 3.5mm port, Triggertrap has an IR-LED built-in. This is the same kind of LED that you would find on a remote control, and we’re currently looking into how we can add support for as many digital cameras as possible, using IR remote control.

In theory, if your camera supports an Infra-red remote, the Triggertrap should be able to trigger it.

In practice, we’ll try to build in as many IR codes as we can; but because the Triggertrap is hackable, you could always add your camera separately later!

Using triggers

Laser & Light modes

A laser-beam across a footpath triggers the camera, photographing all the runners passing

The Triggertrap has two very fast light sensors built in – one is an ambient light sensor, the other is a directional light sensor. The former measures the light in the room (“ambient light”), the latter is a directional light meter, which is perfect for use with a laser beam.

These two light sensors  can be used for all sorts of awesome things. Point a laser beam at it the laser sensor, and you have a laser trigger – when someone breaks the laser beam, the Triggertrap knows about it, and you can trigger the camera.

We are going to include three modes in the triggertrap:

  1. Trigger on break. A laser beam is aimed at the Triggertrap, and it triggers when the beam is broken
  2. Trigger on make. No laser beam is aimed at the Triggertrap, but it triggers when it detects a laser beam.
  3. Trigger on change. Combines both of the above. It triggers once when it detects a laser beam, and again when it detects the beam has been broken.


Laser and light modes will have a time delay setting, adjustable from a few milliseconds to a second or so. great if you want to delay the triggering slightly after the Triggertrap detects a trigger event.

The ambient light sensor also has a sensitivity setting, which helps you ensure that the trigger works both in daylight and at night.

Sound mode

Trigger camera in 3... 2... 1...

The Triggertrap has a built-in sound sensor, which works by ‘trigger on start’ – whenever the sound gets louder than the sensitivity level set, it takes a photo.


Sound mode has the same settings as ambient light mode: Time delay and sensitivity, to help you get the perfect shots

Time-lapse mode

Timelapse photography is the art of taking a photo at an interval. Then, when you show them in rapid succession as a video, you get an animation of the world moving at high speed. The effect is pretty incredible – and Wired has a load of great examples collected here, if you need a bit of inspiration.

Linear time lapse. You choose how often you want to take a photo, and then you press ‘start’. The camera will take photos every X seconds (or minutes).

We are also considering releasing a non-linear time lapse later on, which would enable you to take timelapse sets where it appears that the action accelerates or slows down – stay tuned on this!

Auxiliary mode

Wire the Triggertrap to the light in your fridge, and add a 1-second delay. Now, a second after the fridge door opens, your camera takes a picture. Why you would want to do that is beyond me, but "because you can" springs to mind.

The Aux mode is one of the things I’m most excited about on the Trigger trap, because it’ll let you connect nearly anything to your camera.

Need some ideas? Well, how’s about this:

  • Take a photo when you press your car horn
  • Take a photo when someone opens a door
  • Take a photo when the temperature drops below a certain temperature
  • Take a photo when the sun comes up
  • Take a photo when someone rings your door-bell
  • Take a photo whenever someone loads a web page
  • Hook it up to a clock and take a photo at noon every day
  • Take a photo whenever someone switches on the TV
  • Take a photo when your dogs step on a pressure-sensitive mat by their food bowl

If you can think of it, you can find a way of connecting it to the Triggertrap – and to take photos of it, too, of course! And if you can’t figure out how to make it happen, I’m sure the Triggertrap community would be more than happy to help you along. I already have a couple of cool ideas for auxiliary mode tutorials that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks.


Aux mode will have sensitivity and time delay settings.

Other features

With a built-in USB port, you'll be able to extend the features of the Triggertrap yourself. Or get your geeky neighbour to do it for you.

The Triggertrap has a built-in display so you see what you’re doing – much easier to work with than guesstimating delays and sensitivity settings, for example, and it’ll give you useful feedback about the features you’re using at the moment.

The Triggertrap is controlled with touch-sensitive buttons. That means that even if you have slightly grubby paws, the Triggertrap should keep working.

We weren’t able to environmentally sealing the Triggertrap, but if you want it to be completely water proof, get yourself a nice DryCase – it has a water-sealed 3.5mm mini jack built in, so you can leave your Triggertrap in the rain for days on end if you want, without causing it to explode in a rain of sparks and hellfire.

The Triggertrap is battery powered, and runs on three AA batteries. We highly recommend you get a good battery charger and some high-amperage rechargeable batteries (Sanyo Eneloop batteries are a great compromise between price and quality): It’s better for the environment, better for your wallet, and they last much longer than Alkalines, as well. It’s a win-win-win!

The Triggertrap can also be powered via the USB port, for extra-long projects. Plug it into the wall or a computer using the Micro USB port, and you can take photos until the earth runs out of electric power.

We have implemented a power-saving feature, so that when you’ve set up your Triggertrap, it goes into ‘sleep’ mode. This disables the touch-sensitive buttons and the display, so it can run in the background. This means that the batteries will last much longer, and you can just leave it to do its thing while you go to the pub.

We understand that you love your camera, so we’ve done everything we can to protect it. Your camera is optically isolated from the rest of the Triggertrap (read more about opto-isolators if you’re geeky enough). This means that there is no copper wires physically connecting the Triggertrap to the camera – so if you do something unspeakably stupid (such as connecting your Triggertrap to a lightning rod to try to photograph lightning), there’s a fighting chance that your camera will survive the encounter.

In addition to all of that, Triggertrap will have an USB port, which you can use to add your own functionality to the device by programming it. We’re working on making the Triggertrap Arduino compatible, so you should be able to use the Arduino programming environment (which is based on the Processing programming language) to create your own features and functionality. The USB port also means that if we add additional functionality to the Triggertrap later, you can do a software update!

Sound exciting? Head over to the Triggertrap Shop to buy yours!

57 Comments leave one →
  1. Geoff Cloake permalink
    July 7, 2011 10:59

    How about adding a light sensor for capturing lightning?

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 7, 2011 11:00

      Hey! Under “Laser mode”, I’m briefly talking about that:

      We haven’t tested this properly yet, but we believe that the built-in light trigger should be fast enough that we can use it for lightning photography as well

  2. newd7000user permalink
    July 10, 2011 06:40

    I second the Lightning trigger function! I’m in for a couple if you do.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 11, 2011 07:55

      Definitely including that!

  3. Tim permalink
    July 10, 2011 23:37

    How about adding manual trigger mode?
    So triggertrap can work as normal (wired) remote shutter release, aka “press a button on triggertrap to release your camera”.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 11, 2011 07:55

      Great idea, I’ll look into it now!

  4. Tim permalink
    July 10, 2011 23:39

    Is there any plans to publish early AUX port spec?

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 11, 2011 07:55

      Not planned, but that’s a pretty good idea!

  5. Yauhen permalink
    July 11, 2011 05:29

    Hi, what about the following algorithm for laser/sound mode:
    - a user presses “Start” button
    - the trigger:
    — turns off studio lights
    — opens the camera shutter
    — goes into waiting mode
    — catches laser beam crossing or some sound
    — fires a separate flash
    — closes the camera shutter
    — turns on light in the studio

    • Tim permalink
      July 11, 2011 08:40

      — turns off studio lights
      — turns on light in the studio
      I suspect that would require powerful switches….

      • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
        July 11, 2011 10:41

        It sounds like this is a slightly more ambitious project than the Triggertrap itself, but using an Arduino and beefy relays, you should be able to make this as an one-off.

  6. Tim permalink
    July 12, 2011 23:43

    Here we go with additional idea:
    - make electrical specification of TT output jack such that it fits to spec of AUX port.

    Application of idea:
    - combine multiple TTs into a whatever complex triggering system. So one TT can trigger another TT

  7. Braden Nesin permalink
    July 13, 2011 05:23

    Add an HDR function for time lapse. Basically, a function that takes a set number of exposures (3 or 5 typically), then waits a set time, then three, then wait, etc. If you set the camera to auto-bracket, the camera itself will deal with the exposure changes.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 13, 2011 21:56

      There’s already a way of doing this: The TT, by default, sends a “take photo” signal for 0.5 seconds. if you set your camera to continuous shooting and automatic bracketing, it’ll do exactly what you describe above – without having to do any hacks!

      • Shaun Root permalink
        February 21, 2012 15:04

        That’s true, but my camera will only bracket 3 exposures. I would like to be able to take 9 exposures by setting the shutter speed of the middle exposure and have Triggertrap do the rest.

  8. lora permalink
    July 13, 2011 14:13

    laser trigger:

    is there a way to stop the laser beam after triggering to avoid having the laser beam on the photo? maybe with the use of the aux port?

    otherways there are IR lasers, but i prefer the visible ones.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 13, 2011 21:55

      There will be a way of doing this, Lora, but it’ll be a hack rather than an out-of-the-box feature. I’ll post a how-to on the Triggertrap blog asap!

      ~ haje

  9. Rob permalink
    July 14, 2011 06:04

    I would like to see the laser or sound trigger cause the time lapse to start. Say I wanted to take some pictures of animals at night, I setup the laser trigger for when they cross a path, but then I want to take a picture every 10 seconds for a few minutes to see what they’re up to.

    You could make the time lapse a secondary function, the others are just triggers, and after it triggers what do you do?

    The triggers would be same: time, sound, laser and aux. Then you set what it does after the trigger happens, which could be take a picture, take a linear time lapse, take a non-linear time lapse, or some other mode that I program in after I get one. :)

    For simplicity, you’d probably want to wait until the time lapse finishes before allowing another trigger event.

    It would also solve the problem of wanting to do HDR. And if each picture takes 1 second or more, then having the signal on for .5 seconds isn’t enough for multiple pictures.

  10. Joe permalink
    July 14, 2011 10:59

    It’s be great if it could trigger a servo which could push the shutter button for cameras without IR or remote ports.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      July 29, 2011 10:31

      It’s on my to-do list! :)

  11. Ryan Canon permalink
    July 14, 2011 12:44

    Continuous shooting via IR with cameras like D7000 that only support Single shot mode via remote would be useful!

  12. Kosta Koeman permalink
    July 14, 2011 20:20

    I’ll pick one up in hopes for the lightning triggering capability. I think this will be a fun device to play with. I’m also interested in the USB/PC interface and could possibly help out there. Contact me in my provided email address if you are interested.

  13. Guy Laclair permalink
    July 14, 2011 23:00

    I own the Camera Axe to do water drop photography. Have you considered adding this functionality into the TriggerTrap? If so I would suggest adding a feature I do not see on the Camera Axe and that is to control the number of drops. Example: Drop 1, Size X, Delay Y, Drop 2, Size X, Delay Y, Drop 3 ….
    If you want someone to test the proto types, I am willing to do this. I have some other suggestions on the way the math is done when doing more then one drop. The Camera Axe version I believe makes it harder then it needs to be to figure out how to get two water drops to collide at the correct location.

  14. rsgeek permalink
    July 16, 2011 03:00

    I’m wondering how long 3 AAA batteries would last in this (if I wanted to take a LONG image sequence, for instance…). Is there any way to add (or at least save room for) an external power supply?

    • rsgeek permalink
      July 16, 2011 03:02

      Sorry, meant to say “add (or save room for) *a connector* for an external power supply.”

      • Daniel permalink
        July 17, 2011 16:00

        Suggestion would be to make it possible to add external power through the USB port. There is external battery packs for smartphones with up to 9600mAh. That would last a while…

      • Tim permalink
        July 20, 2011 01:14

        +1 for a connector for external power supply
        +1 for “power through the USB port”

  15. Daniel permalink
    July 17, 2011 15:45

    Would it be posssible to trigger something before the laser beam or sound sensor activates? Example would be to open a valve to creat a water drop and then take a picture of it in the air or when it hit a surface.

    • Paul permalink
      October 3, 2011 19:28

      You could probably think about using the laser trigger just above the frame, when the water drop breaks the beam, it triggers a delayed shot… then you just play with the delay to get your desired location.

  16. Knarf permalink
    July 23, 2011 16:49

    “Hook it up to a clock and take a photo at noon every day”

    Could we have this feature build in? An internal clock and let it take a picture at one or several moments a day? Instead of time-leaps where you just set minutes between each shot.

  17. Elias permalink
    July 29, 2011 22:49

    1. Use “micro-usb port” instead of “mini-usb port” showing at the prototype pictures. This contact will take over the world because all future mobilephone and chargers will use it. Save us another cable type and join the future! Will make it easier to connect the TT to Android Phone because they then share the same usb-port. Will make it possibly to use a mobilephone charger to power the device. PLEASE, think about it at least. :-)

    2. Mounting the TT on a camera hotshoe socket! Having the laser sensor pointing at the same direction as the lens. Will make it is to mount a nice laser trigger for sport events! :-)

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      December 7, 2011 17:03

      Great suggestion – we’ve swapped the port from Mini-USB to Micro-USB now!

  18. pcarsten permalink
    July 30, 2011 16:35

    Is there any specific requirement for the type of laser beam which can trigger the TriggerTap, or will any Laserpointer do it.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      August 2, 2011 13:52

      A laser pointer will do!

  19. Gedankenwandler permalink
    August 5, 2011 21:52

    whats about a video detection – connect a web- or video cam and if something happens or change in the frame a photo will be taken.

  20. Eric Bye permalink
    August 14, 2011 10:16

    Can the Triggertrap use both the lazer sensor and the aux port at the same time.
    ie: lazer used on lazor sensor and a lazer sensor in the aux port to create a cross beam for precise photos of birds or insects in flight ?

  21. Eric permalink
    August 15, 2011 15:27

    Is it possible to use the lazer sensor and the aux port at the same time.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      December 7, 2011 17:02

      Not straight out of the box, but as the Triggertrap is open source, you could add that functionality yourself!

  22. David Hobbs permalink
    September 4, 2011 14:12

    Would it be possible to add an old fashioned “T” setting, found on many earlier filme camers e.g. Hasselblad, where shutter is held open on “B” till “close” signal received? Good for droplets etc in dark

  23. Michael Cavén permalink
    September 26, 2011 11:59

    This is a pretty simple idea, but what about adding an extended self timer mode? My camera supports 2 or 10 seconds self timer, but sometimes you want a bit longer time, say for example that you want to take a self portrait and needs to go a bit into the landscape. Then a 30 seconds (or any custom value) self timer would be perfect!

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      December 7, 2011 17:01

      This is already included – simply set the ‘delay1st’ in the Timelapse mode to whatever delay you would like!

  24. Paul permalink
    October 3, 2011 19:16

    I don’t know if this is already said but…

    What about for the sound & laser triggers… the ability to use something like a bulb mode where the shutter is opened on the first sound/light break and then closed on the next one for varying exposure lengths?

  25. October 4, 2011 22:00

    Would it be possible to operate an automation for focus stacking?

  26. xciv permalink
    October 26, 2011 11:10

    It should probably be noted somewhere that night club strobes, and therefore I presume laser pointers, can permanently damage a camera sensor.

  27. Andy Bryant (@andybryant) permalink
    November 25, 2011 14:40

    Hi guys,

    Nice idea… but how about an extension to the timelapse mode to support variable exposures via Bulb. i.e. program the unit to hold the shutter open for a period rather than just firing one shot.

    So you could set the system to shoot a timelapse starting at 1s exposure, slowly ramping to longer and longer exposures until end of program … with the idea being that as the sun is setting the exposures get longer to capture the available light.

    You might be able to get away with guess-work here to set the levels, however if it was possible to use the light-sensor to set the exposure times… Woah!


  28. Owen Baynham permalink
    December 7, 2011 15:15

    This seems like a great solution to a problem that I have had for many years! We operate stream flow (rivers) gaging stations at remote locations throughout the country. The gaging stations have 12 volt, solar/battery powered instruments that measure the stream flow every 15 minutes. For about ten years I have been looking for a camera that I can interface to our instruments to remotely take pictures of floods. It seems the TriggerTrap could be connected between our instruments and a camera to take remote pictures or movies. Is my understanding correct?

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      December 7, 2011 16:50

      Hey there!

      Yup, that’s pretty easy to do, simply hook up your instruments to the Aux sensor on the Triggertrap, and a camera. 12V should be more than enough to power a camera and a Triggertrap via USB, so all you’d have to worry about is to trek out and collect the photos every now and again.

      ~ Haje

  29. danb permalink
    December 7, 2011 22:48

    MIDI. Great, simple, and established way to automate anything from a computer &/or a huge variety of human-interface controllers. Especially useful with music projects, of course. Works over USB.

  30. random permalink
    December 12, 2011 05:20

    What is the max voltage rating for the cam port? Many older flashes have sync voltages, with some over 400VDC, and some are also reverse polarity. If anyone was considering using it for those types of applications, knowing the max rated continuous voltage, polarity, and transient voltage would be helpful. Ex: 35V max safe for trigger, bipolar, 1kV max blocking without damage to camera. This would be dependent both on the component rating and layout.

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      December 12, 2011 20:47

      Great question – I think this would be limited by the octocoupler we are using, as that’s the only part of the device that has to deal with the power spike. Let me try and find an answer for you!

  31. Tracey permalink
    January 22, 2012 23:50

    How would I use this to trip studio flash for example where the shutter is left open and the exposure is made by the flash being activated? My Strobeams EID500 studio flash have a 1/8600s (t0.5) flash duration so I’d like to make use of it. Thanks

    • Haje Jan Kamps permalink*
      January 23, 2012 09:10

      Simply use the Triggertrap to Flash Hotshoe accessory, or – if your flash accepts 3.5mm or jack plugs (most accept one or the other), use a stereo audio cable from your Triggertrap to your studio strobe.

  32. Tracey permalink
    January 25, 2012 07:40

    Thank you Haje. Now all you have to do is start shipping them )

  33. Alex Cabrit permalink
    February 9, 2012 12:09

    I use open hardware elphel’s camera that connects with an RJ45 ethernet plug. Have you ever tried to work with this camera before ?

  34. Gary permalink
    February 23, 2012 23:03

    Is it possible to add a Wifly shield? That would make it possible to trigger the triggertrap with your phone. Even better, use the phone to program and monitor the triggertrap status! :-)

  35. Dan Ross (@DanRickRoss) permalink
    March 21, 2012 15:18

    +1 to non-linear time lapse options and ambient light meter being used for bulb ramping. If this were possible, my mind would melt from the sheer possibilities.

  36. Roy permalink
    March 22, 2012 03:35

    Hello, i am trying to figure out if i can use your great device for my project. I am trying to photograph motor sports and i want to have a camera close to the track by a turn and have some kind of sensor set off the camera. I am wondering if light sensor or laser would work. Would the light sensor be fast enough to catch the fast moving racers? I am thinking it would be difficult setting up the laser from the other side of the track, and i wonder if it would be a visual hindrance to the racers. Thanks!

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