Tethered shooting is connecting a computer to the camera when you shoot so the pictures you take a downloaded to the computer rather than (or in addition) to a memory card.
Usually, the camera and computer are connected by cable, hence tethering.
In this tutorial, I am going to go over tethered shooting, why (or when) you should shoot tethered, how it is done and what is the gear involved.
Why Tether Shoot
You would probably wanna shoot tethered for the speed at which you ca n get the files onto a computer. Why would you want to do that? I can think of at least several reasons: The first of which is quickly watching the raw photographs on the computer. This means that you, the photographer, are not the only person on set and have a supervising art director, client, or other stake holders, you don’t need to interrupt the session to download images into a computer or get a huddle-up behind your back to watch your LCD. They can watch the images immediately on a big comfortable screen.
This also allows you to perform quick or verifications on the photographs you shoot (focus, exposure and so on…). Sometimes this can really ease up your workflow. for example when you are doing a composite shoot, you can stack the images and make sure everything is properly placed and ready for editing.
Lastly, this means that your files can be auto backed-up while you shoot. You have at least one level of redundancy (memory card + computer), but you can also use a raid, a portable drive or any other configuration that makes you feel good about file safety.
Set Up & Workflow
My tethered setup usually includes two tripods, one holds the camera and the other holds a laptop table. If conditions allow, I try and hook up the laptop to a power outlet. This is not necessary, but for prolonged shooting it is one less thing to worry about.
Then there is the cable that connects the camera to the computer. This is a USB cable. I have seen another photographers secure the cable to the tripods or laptop, but I just leave it free. If anyone bumps into one of the tripods (which should not happen anyways) I’d rather loose connectivity than having the camera or laptop getting knocked over, so I just plug the USB into the camera and computer. If you want to make sure the cable does not put any strain on the USB port, Tethertools sells a small buckle called JerkStopper. It does what it’s names for. it stops the cable from pulling on the socket. A similar effect can be achieved with a Velcro fastener which is way cheaper.
Once everything is setup and depending on the software you would need to “connect” to the camera. Some programs offer auto connect, while in others it is a manual process. If you camera and software combo supports live view, this is when you’ll start seeing the feed on your laptop.
Once everything is good to go. you can trigger the camera either via the shutter button or via the tethering program. Once you take a photo, it takes about 3-10 seconds to transfer to the computer, depending on the image-size settings, the connection speed, and the computer’s computation power.
On some programs you can take another photo as soon as you want, and on some you have to wait for the image to transfer first. Some, like Lightroom, you can go as fast as you want with the shutter button, but have to wait for the complete download if you use Lightroom for triggering.
If you have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), tethered shooting opens up a whole new path for you to spend money. Starting from software, through tripods, laptop tables and dedicated stands, a computer and a whole bunch of cables, remotes, grips and accessories.
I am going to go over a basic setup, but it can get wild pretty quick.
Not all camera were created even. Some cameras will support some features and some will support others, and some will support some features with one type of software and another set of features with another software. Make sure to check the compatibility of your specific camera on the software site.
Almost any modern DSLR (and some point and shoots and EVILs) supports tethered shooting, although some provide more functionality than others. Here is a list of features that sets the cameras apart
- Tethered Live View – Live view is the ability to see through your camera’s lens. Almost any Video supporting camera will have live view (which is how you shoot video if you don’t use a dedicated monitor), but not all camera are capable of feeding that live view to a tethered computer.
- Simultaneous Card/Camera save – Can the camera save a picture to the computer AND a memory card simultaneously? or does a tethered computer overrides any memory card?
- USB Cable – most cameras will use a mini or micro standard USB cable ,but Nikon uses a proprietary USB cable. It is not an expensive cable, but it is proprietary so it is a hustle to go and get one if you lose yours. (So save that cable that you got with your camera).
- Connectivity – How does the camera connects with the computer? The most common way is USB, but the Nikon D4 for example can connect via an Ethernet port or Wi-Fi.
Connectivity: probably the first thing you wanna make sure is that the computer has a USB2 or higher interface (assuming you are using a relatively modern camera). All the benefits of tethered shooting go down the drain if you have to wait 5 minutes between shots.
Hardware: any modern desktop/laptop should be able to carry a tethering software. I have even used Breezesys software on an old Asus HE netbook and was quite happy.
Monitor: This is basically one of the mail reasons you are shooting tethered, right? you want to see the pictures on the big monitor. The rules are simple, the bigger and higher resolution the monitor is, the more details you will see. But even a 10″ laptop is a better alternative than the camera’s tiny LCD.
Another thing you wanna be aware of when selecting a monitor, and particularly a laptop, is glare. How easy it will it be using it outside. Can it be viewed in sunlight? if not will you consider a monitor hood? Or make a hood?
Tripod / table / station: If you own a big studio, there is a good chance you have a tethering station already setup. If you are doing things on a smaller scale, you’ll probably want a small table to rest the tripod on, along with a second tripod for that table.
I personally use the gear from Tabelz (including a blazing red custom painted 190XPROB Manfrotto as a second tripod). The system has all the stuff that a tethered photographer needs – a non slip table, a non slip mouse pad and a cup holder. Both the cup holder and the mouse pad are optional, but I warmly recommend using a mouse pad when you shoot. It is so much easier than fiddling with the small touch pad.
Software is what drives this entire process. Without it your computer is just connected to a very expensive USB Drive. Here is a comparison of the more common software, I have personally used only 3 of those, so it is spec based
|Canon EOS Utility||X||C||V||V||X||W,M||x||0|
|Camera Control Pro 2||X||N||V||V||V||W,|
|CAPTURE ONE PRO 7||V||C,N||V||V||V||W,M||buy||$299|
|Control My Nikon||V||N||V||V||?||W||buy||$29.95|
The workflow really depends on what you are using for software (I usually use Lightroom 4) but the basic steps are always similar. Here is a short walk through on how it works in LR and a few slightly random tips.
First thing is plugging the camera into the computer and letting Lightroom identify the camera. You can than select the setting for the capture session.
once it is set, you can start taking pictures.
If you are using a different program, you can still have Lightroom auto import the images into the catalog, using something called “Watch Folder”. A watch folder is a folder that Lightroom keeps an eye on and takes action whenever a file is placed in that folder. So if you are using a different program for tethering, you can still automatically import to a Lightroom catalog if the watch folder matches the other program folder.
This is it folks. As you can see it is a pretty easy setup, and once you have a camera, (possibly free) software and a laptop you are good to go.