Shooting tethered to a laptop is something I fought against for years. Last Fall all of that changed. This is a tutorial on how to shoot with a DSLR camera tethered to an Apple Macbook Pro (MBP) laptop (or other Mac running OSX) using either Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Bridge. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be shooting tethered for studio work, and if you’re a photographer with a laptop shooting tethered on location is almost just as easy. I now find myself shooting to a laptop for nearly all commercial and editorial work on location.
- The Bummer
While I really wanted the advantage of large screen previews, I avoided shooting tethered for several reasons. It seemed like one more complicated thing to deal with and for location work I didn’t want to bring more items to a shoot. More equipment can mean less interaction with your subject. Software for tethered shooting was another barrier. I didn’t want to purchase or learn how to use another piece of software? Early results were also clunky and temperamental, so I drew my line in the sand. It wasn’t for me. Lastly, I didn’t want a crowd of lookie loos hoovered around a computer screen making comments and slowing down the pace of a photo shoot.
+ The Bonus
Tethered shooting became so much easier when Lightroom 3 (LR3) was released. All the bugs disappeared. The lookie loos were less of a peanut gallery than I anticipated and more eyeballs are a good thing. Everything looks great at a small size, but small problems are now bigger and more easy to identify. Something else happened that I didn’t expect. Subjects are more relaxed because they can see themselves clearly. They are more aware of the mistakes (seeing this is normal), able to see the hero images that become top selections, and are more engaged in the process which allows them to feel more comfortable. So if shooting tethered only requires 5 extra minutes of prep and 5 extra lbs of gear in order to make better images then I am sold! Oh yeah, at the end of the shoot I don’t have to download images anymore since it’s already been done while on set. On to the tutorials …
Option 1: Adobe Lightroom 3 – The simple method
Yes there were plug-ins for earlier versions of Adobe LR that allowed tethered shooting but they were horrible! LR3 takes the pain away.
Step 1) Make sure you are using the latest version by going to Lightroom–>Help–>Check for updates.
Step 2) Start with an empty reformatted memory storage card in your camera. Set the camera’s USB settings in the Menu to “MTP/PTP” (Nikon) or “Communication: PC Connect” (Canon). Turn camera “Off.”
Step 3) Connect the camera cable to your camera body and the other end to your computer’s USB port.
Step 4) Go to LR–>File–>Tethered Capture–>Start Tethered Capture
Step 5) Choose your settings in the “Tethered Capture Settings” dialog box. Notice you can create presets that allow you to batch rename, append your contact info (also usage, caption, description, etc…) to the metadata, and apply keywords. This happens automatically to all new images shot and imported via tether. Does this slow down the flow of data. Nope! Set them up and click “Ok.”
Step 6) Turn camera “on” and start shooting! You’ll see your camera visible in the upper left corner of the “Tethered Capture Window.” Savvy photographers will create a develop preset to apply to each new imported image.
Tips: To avoid any confusion between tethered shooting sessions, shoot a test image, process it in the Develop module, then go back to the Tethered Capture Window and choose “Same as previous” for the Develop setting. Choose the “Auto Advance Selection” so that LR will preview each new image as it is captured.
Option 2: Adobe Bridge
Yes Adobe Bridge can be used for shooting tethered. It requires a few tricks and only has one small hiccup, but it’s a free option available to anyone with Photoshop (CS4 or CS5). For that reason it’s worth a try if you don’t want to purchase any new software. While it’s not as seamless as Lightroom, it allows incoming images to be opened up directly in Photoshop or to be instantly sent through Bridge’s export options to Facebook, Flickr, etc…
Step 1) Go to Adobe’s website to download and install Auto Preview Latest File, a free plug-in for Adobe Bridge (CS4 or CS5). This will allow Bridge to automatically advance to each new image in the Preview panel. Well…sort of.
Step 2) Create a new folder on your hard drive for the tethered photo session.
Step 3) Start with an empty reformatted memory storage card in your camera. Set the camera’s USB settings in the Menu to “MTP/PTP” (Nikon) or “Communication: PC Connect” (Canon).
Step 4) Connect the camera cable to your camera body and the other end to your computer’s USB port.
Step 5) Go to Applications. Launch Image Capture. From the dialog box select your tethered camera under Devices, then create or select a destination folder by going to Import To–>Other
Step 6) From Image Capture go to: File–>Take Picture. Choose “Manual,” check “Download new images to,” then choose the same destination folder from step 5.
Step 7) Go to Adobe Bridge. From the “Refine” icon below the menu bar choose: Auto Preview Latest File. You are now telling Image Capture to send each new capture to a destination folder, using Bridge to watch that same folder, and Auto Preview Latest File to advance to each new image. Got that?
Note: In CS5, Auto Preview Latest File advances to the second to last capture instead of the “latest” capture. Not a big deal. Use the arrow keys to get around it.
Tips: Every time the camera is turned “off,” you’ll have to repeat step 6 when you turn it “on.” Close the unnecessary panels in Bridge. Decrease the Content panel (thumbnail views) size and increase the Preview panel to allow incoming images to be viewed as large as possible.
16′ or 25′ USB Booster Extension Cable
This is a must! Standard USB camera connection cables are too short for practical work. Since transfer speeds are slower over distance, typical USB extension cables are a poor choice. An “active” USB extension cable or “booster” cable is self powered through the connection, allows a cleaner signal, decreases the risk of corrupted files, and maintains a steady download speed. Active USB extension cables can be daisy chained up to 75.’
www.tethertools.com: Tether cables, platforms, grip, & accessories
www.seaportdigital.com: Laptop cases, platforms, and laptop shades
www.thinktankphoto.com: ThinkTank’s Sun Screen (laptop shade)
www.monoprice.com: USB extension cables. Great prices for any type of cables.
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