Zoom Lens & Camera Camouflage Cover
for Wildlife Photography

      My "starter kit" for wildlife photography was a Canon body with a 75-300mm IS lens. It wasn't a lens I could get a commercial camo cover for so I resolved to make my own. I wanted something that would truly hide the camera and lens. None of the commercially made lens sleeves covered the camera. I was intrigued by the notion of figuring out how to make something that not only covered the lens, but the camera body as well, and would really have the look of vegetation. With this first attempt at making camouflage I learned quite a bit about how to make "leafy" elements and how well they would work for camouflage.

Need a lens cover for a super-telephoto?
Try this project.

      This design provides true 3D blending into vegetation, completely disquising the shape of the camera and lens. Of course, the tell-tale "black hole" of the lens hood is there, which is unavoidable by any means other than pure magic. The size can be customized to work with any telephoto zoom up to about 400mm, whether the lens hood is a separate piece or integral to the lens body. With an integral lens hood, the separate lens cover need not be made. Just make the cover long enough for the body and lens both, allowing for the fully extended zoom length. For the larger non-zoom fixed length prime lenses, I came up with a different solution which is described here.

      This cover weighs only a couple of ounces, is quick and easy to put on and take off, allows easy access to all camera and lens controls, accordions when the lens is zoomed in and out, folds into a bundle smaller than your hand for easy storage in a camera bag, and is very inexpensive to make (about $3 in material). Because the lens hood cover is not attached to the lens barrel cover, there is no twisting of the cover if you have a lens (like mine) where the front element rotates when focusing.

     Making one of these covers requires minimal sewing machine skills since there are no critical tolerances, and the seaming can show. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be functional and sturdy. I am certainly no master tailor. My stitching wasn't straight, nor was my cutting and hemming accurate, but it works and it won't come apart.

     The left photo shows the finished lens hood cover. A piece of cloth large enough to cover the hood with a little extra all around for hems was hemmed along the length, and the ends hemmed very thin just to keep the fabric from unraveling.

      The 3D pieces, like little bushes, were cut out at random and sewn together, then sewn onto the flattened lens hood cover piece (see diagram). Next, the cover was wrapped around the hood and the ends pinned to approximate fit. The pinned loop is turned wrong side out and sewn together, with the intention that it be slightly loose.

      Now with the loop turned right side out (right photo), slide the cover over the hood for a test fit. If it's a little loose, guesstimate how much less the diameter should be and reseam the ends a little closer (no need to undo the first seam, just fold the extra under while test fitting).

      Once a snug fit is achieved, trim off the excess from the original seams and slide fit onto the hood. If this is done right, the front edge seam will catch over the edge of the hood and it will stay snug until you remove it for storage. The finished hood covering is shown in the left and right photos.

NOTE: Be sure your little "3D leaves" do not flop over the front of the lens hood and block your shots. Keep them short enough that if the wind catches them they will not bend over the front either.

      A reminder here that if your lens front element DOES NOT ROTATE when focusing, you do not need to make a separate cover for the lens hood. In such a case, the lens cover can extend out to cover the hood.

      The photo at right shows these 3D leaves as they look on the lens cover. As you can see, their shape and size vary quite a bit. I even used different materials on some of them to provide variation.

      At left is the lens barrel cover laid out flat. At right is the cover turned upside down to show the inside (underside). This is made from a rectangular piece of camo material cut large enough to fully cover the lens and camera length. (I have not provided specific dimensions since your lens and camera are quite likely different from mine.)

     Add about one inch of excess on two sides and the front to use for a hem of about 1/2 inch. Add about 2.5-3 inches extra at the back to allow for a wide hem of about 2 inches over the camera body. Both the front hem, and especially the wide back hem should have some stiffening material inside (like a collar or cuff does) to give them some body. (More on this below.)

NOTE: You can avoid the one small error that I made in planning the size of my cover. I failed to take into account the extra bulk of my fist around the camera body grip. This effectively makes the grip side of my cover ride up higher than the other side because my fist is under there. So, when sizing your cover material, allow about 2 inches extra width at the back corner of the material by the camera grip so that it flares out wider than the other side. This will allow it to hang down farther to better cover your grip hand when using the camera.

      Allow enough width across the front so you can wrap it loosely around the lens barrel front, plus an extra two inches for 2 one-inch tabs where the front will "velcro" together (refer to photo 1 and photo 2 below for velcro tabs). Make the back end wide enough to drape across the top and all the way down the sides of the camera body. A little too big is better than a little too small.

      The basic shape of the camera/lens cover when completed is shown in the top half of the thumbnail diagram at right. Here is an enlarged view of the diagram.

      These photos (two at left and the far right) show how the cover wraps around the front lens element and connects with velcro as mention above. The right photo also clearly shows additional "leafy" frills around the lens front which are not indicated in the cover diagram. These imbellishments are up to you. Add whatever details you feel are helpful.

     You might notice also in the right photo that the front hem round the lens looks a little "puffy". This is because I used a thin strip of something to add some body to the hem. I also did the same thing to the wide hem at the back that goes over top of the camera body. There are various types of stiffening material to use in hems, collar, cuffs and such in garment sewing, all available at sewing/fabric shops, I chose a thin sheet of craft material called "Foamie" sheets, made by Darico, Inc.
This 8.5x11 inch sheet of rubbery feeling foam is 2mm thick and comes in various colors. You'll probably want to use black. In mine I happened to use white since it was already on hand. It's soft, but has just enough body for this purpose. It cuts easily with scissors like fabric, and sews easily as well. I purchased mine from the craft section of Walmart, but I suspect many craft/hobby suppliers carry this as well.
      In the photo at right you see the additional arched foliage frills I added to the cover, sewn to the wide hem band that hangs down the side of the camera body. They are also shown in the bottom half ot the diagram at left.
     The diagram also shows stringy looking frills hanging down the side of the cover. These "frills" are quite evident in this photo you saw at the top of the page. You can design your own foliage frills if you wish. They do not have to be made just like mine.

      Okay, here's where you might have to get creative. In these photos I am trying to show how I attach the cover to the camera body. The technique used is deceptively simple, and very quick and easy to put on and take off. However, whether this works for YOUR camera body depends on the shape of your camera body. Refer to the diagram at the far left(click on the thumbnail for a larger view), and then reference the diagram to the four photos here and the three photos next to the diagram thumbnail. Hopefully this will explain the concept of how I attached the cover to the camera.

     The diagram above left shows the general shape of my Canon camera body. There is a lip overhang above where the lens attaches to the body. Look at this photo which shows that some of the "foamie" sheet I used for the stiffener inside the wide hem over the camera body end was allowed to hang out from the hem, The part that hangs out is doubled over and stitched to make a thicker, stiffer strip. Then a piece of narrow elastic band is attached to this. This doubled-over strip slips under the lip of the camera body, and the elastic band is slipped over the flash head and under the edge of the viewfinder rubber cup. The other photos show various views of this.

     The diagram shows this as well. The thick white line in the diagram represents the stiffener material, and the yellow band represents the elastic. Hopefully between this diagram and the photos it becomes clear how the cover is held in place. The elastic strip does not interfere with any of the buttons or controls, nor does it interfere with the viewfinder.

     Again, I cannot say this will work for all cameras, as their shape may not be right to use this method, but at least this should give you some idea how to go about making it work for your camera.

      One other handy little feature I added is a small pocket with cover flap to store the lens cap when I'm shooting. I use a retainer strap to keep my lens cap attached to the camera when it's off the lens, and it dangles in the breeze. If the camera is on a tripod, the cap invariably bangs against the tripod in a light breeze, making unwanted noise. This little pocket solves that problem handily.

     As you can see in these photos at right, the camera controls are quite easily visible from the back, even though the camera is well camouflaged from the front. The camera is easy to grip, and the zoom and focus rings on the lens are easy to reach because of the open design under the cover. The cover also helps to hide your hands, although I recommend wearing camo gloves to be sure your hands don't show.

     And now for the final test. Here's how the camera-lens camouflage cover looks in use.

     In conjunction with the camera camouflage, I use the homemade face mask shown here. Of course, you can buy a face mask, which I will admit, is much less trouble than making your own. But I didn't like the design or the material of any that I could find in the stores. Besides, I like making stuff, so I made one for myself.