Introduction To Tethered Shooting

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.

Introduction To Tethered Shooting

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.

Introduction To Tethered Shooting

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.

Gear

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.

Camera

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.

Laptop

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

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


Software third
Party?
camera Live
View
control
settings
Wifi OS
(W/L/M)
Buy Cost
Canon EOS Utility  X C V V X W,M x 0
Camera Control Pro 2 X N V V V W,
M
buy $180
Adobe
Lightroom 4
V C,N X X X W,M buy $119
CAPTURE ONE PRO 7 V C,N V V V W,M buy $299
Aperture V C,N X X X M buy $79
Control My Nikon V N V V ? W buy $29.95
TetherPro  V N,C V V V W buy $24.95
Sofortbild V N V V V M x 0
Breeze Systems V C,N V V V W,M
(p)
buy $175
Entangle V C,N x V x L X 0
gphoto2 V C,N x V x L X 0
CamRanger  V C,N V V V iOS buy $299
digiCamControl V N V V ? W X 0
                 

Workflow

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.

Introduction To Tethered Shooting

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • Vase Petrovski
  • Jamie

    Proof read, please… this article is helpful but oh-so-painful to read with all the grammar mistakes and incorrect words.

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      sigh, the curse of being English Second Language… I do run everything through a spell checker but it does not catch them all. Let me know where the errors are and I’ll fix them right away

      • Gavin

        Udi, no apology necessary. It isn’t “painful” or difficult to read the articles with these errors, they don’t occur enough to make the article unreadable, and it is very easy to understand what you are trying to convey. I know you appreciate feedback, but you probably shouldn’t indulge these nit-picky types.

      • The Unheard Voice

        Have you considered asking someone to proofread the articles for you? I’d gladly help lol

        • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

          Thanks Basia, lets chat :)

    • Titletown99030507d

      Are you paying for this information? If not sit back relax and enjoy the free advice. Because I know you get it. It irks me to read about people like you that has to pee on everybody’s parade. Grow up and as the Beatles said “Let it Be”.

      • iphoto27

        So true, Jamie thinks he so smart that he’s lost because he doesn’t know.

        Do you think Jamie can he speaks & writes other language beside english (English), like Chinese, Japanese or Russian?

    • Madi

      Oh no! Didn’t know there was a spelling bee officer! Udi, you were amazing in this post and helped out a bunch! Thank you SO much!

  • http://twitter.com/MHKid Matthew Baxa

    Just an FYI, the Canon EOS Utility does have LiveView and does run on the Mac

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      thanks, added it to the table.

      • Nikki Scott

        Is there a tethering program that runs both Live View for Nikon video recording and is available to use on Mac? I see the only Nikon compatible program is Windows only.

        • Guest

          Nevrmind, udi. I just saw Sofortbild and answered my own question!! LoL. Thanks!

  • VV

    My Setup is just a Eye-Fi SD card and iPad. No wires, No issues.

    D800. Raw on CF and Jpeg on Eye-Fi.

    • OrlandoPhotoGuy

      Now definitively that is a setup I could live with… I have a D3200 and a 17″ MacBookPro i7 and the eye fi solution seems sooo elegant.

  • http://twitter.com/crawshaws s c

    I want to shoot tethered with Lightroom, my only blocker is Lightroom captures in CR2 format and I want my images converted to DNG on capture. So im stuck with the good old capture then import as DNG until it is possible to capture to DNG from a tethered camera.

  • Scott Lewis

    as you have only covered Canon and Nikon here is hot to tether with a Sony Alpha

    http://www.scottlewisphotography.eu/?p=1286

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      Thanks Scott! well said.

      • Oshra

        Hey Udi,
        I tried to find some software a free one, for Mac. And couldn’t find. Do u know maybe about that?
        (By the way, I loved the article)
        Thank u

  • Todd

    Great article – thanks. Btw: TetherPro does support Canon cameras (a recent addition!)- cheers, Todd (TetherPro Author)

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      thanks Todd. I updated the table.

  • Amber @ Tether Tools

    Great post about tethering and the workflow setup! Thank you for featuring the Tether Tools JerkStopper! Much appreciated!

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      My pleasure Amber. Great to see you here on the blog :)

  • Tabelz

    Thanks Udi and DIYP.

  • Rasta Man

    Anybody ever used WiFiCamTether wireless tether (www.jamlogics.com)

  • McCoy

    There’s an Android app called “DSLR Controller” that I use on my Galaxy Tab 2 plus an OTG cable, and it works wonderful with my little Canon 1100D. Fully recommended for Android users.

  • dread locks

    XtremeTether looks good too! dont know what to buy!! (www.xtremetether.com)

  • Tonda Cunningham

    which software will work for tethering with a sony dslr digital carmera.I do pet and family photograpy and have been looking for some software where I can hook camera to laptop and shoot ,see photo at same time on pc then print..
    tonda

  • Zalman

    Is there a software that works with a point & shoot camera? (Specifically Nikon Coolpix P330)

  • Bill

    Once you get going shooting tethered you’ll have to add a DigiPlate to the workflow: http://digi-plate.com

  • Duka Istvan

    As a status update : we release a new stable version for digiCamCOntrol 1.1.0 :

    http://digicamcontrol.com/news/stable-release-110

  • fatisaya

    which software should i get for fuji camera?