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What Is Tethered Shooting & Why Do I Love It So Much?

Last December, while in the middle of a shoot and half way thru the models, I tripped on my tether cord and shattered my Nikon body and the lens attached to it. Needless to say, it wasn’t my happiest moment in 2017 but it was my most valued.

What Is Tethering?

Tethered shooting is connecting a computer to your camera when you are shooting so the pictures you take are downloaded to your computer in addition to the camera’s memory card. The camera and computer are connected by a cable, hence “tethering”.

Benefits of Tethering

In this particular situation, I was using tethering for my client’s benefit. When I shoot tethered each photograph loads into Lightroom as it is made. This instant feedback allows the client to mark/star/flag the images in Lightroom that most appeal to them, which cuts my editing time in half by knowing which ones they already want to be touched up. Depending on the tethering software you’re using, you might even be able to do quick edits to the photo on-site.  Allowing your client to see your images on a much larger screen than the camera’s LCD can really help you check sharpness, details, and help the hair and makeup team also see their work so they can fix those random eyelashes and strands of hairs that are a pain to fix in post-processing. The last reason why I love tethering is that my files are automatically backed-up, not only on my SD card but also into a folder on my laptop.

What You Need to Tether

Almost every DSLR is capable of tethering and they generally all come with an included USB cable to tether. You will need to use software that allows you to tether.  Lightroom, &  Capture One, are examples. Some manufacturers, like Canon, include tethering software with the camera.   Most cables included with cameras are only about 5′ long.  You might think this isn’t nearly enough working room so to extend your range you’ll need a USB extension cord. Keep in mind that having a bunch of extra cord laying around can be a hazard, which is exactly what caused me to trip!

Now, my new Panasonic GX8 and other new cameras have built-in Wi-Fi. Now when I tether it is all done wirelessly which is amazing and beautiful. You will be focused on creating flawless images and connecting with your client, not stressing about cords. If your camera doesn’t have that ability, I know there are a few SD cards and other wireless tethering devices you can purchase to eliminate those cords. The other solution is to fit your camera with a short, six to twelve-inch cable anchored to the camera that the tether cable plugs into. When you trip on the cable (not if you trip, when) the cable unplugs from the pigtail saving the camera from damage.

If you don’t have the wireless option I recommend you tape your USB cord to your camera with gaff tape or tie it to the tripod leg. Keep your camera on a tripod as well as your laptop and other tethering devices. Make sure you and those around you are constantly aware of your surroundings and, of course, move about the set carefully.

How To Setup Tethering

Alright, so let’s say you don’t have the option to shoot wireless and you want to tether to Lightroom. Here are three quick steps to get you started.

  1. Connect your DSLR to your laptop with a USB cable.
  2. Turn the camera on.Open Lightroom and navigate to File > Tethered Capture > Start Tethered Capture.
  3. Third, in the Tethered Capture Settings dialogue box, you have the option of choosing a Session Name, specifying the photo names, choosing a destination for your photos, and adding metadata and keywords. Be sure to pay close attention to where the photos will be saved so you can find them later. After setting your options, click OK. If all goes well, a narrow control panel will pop up with some simple remote shooting options and you are ready to go!

Conclusion

Tethering is pretty simple and I promise once you try it you’ll be hooked. I use it when photographing models, products, food, and just about anytime I’m in the studio. So plug in and give it a try!

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