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7 Reasons Why You Need to Start Shooting Tethered

For the longest time I viewed tethered capture as a nice-to-have reserved for high budget shoots and simply shyed away from it. I tried it a few times and after constantly being plagued with technical problems, I decided I'm better off sticking to my camera's LCD screen and didn't give it a second thought. Through my ignorance, little did I know how much I was actually losing out on and how much time I wasted in the process. The turning point for me came when I was forced to start shooting tethered while filming my Fashion and Beauty Photography/Retouching tutorial at PRO EDU (which coincidently released today). Approaching the whole situation with a good deal of trepidation, I quickly came to the realization that I've been overlooking a tremendous benefit that is available to me at little cost. Before we delve into the reasons why you should shoot tethered, I think it’s best to address some of the hesitations or arguments against it, as they're what kept me away from it in the first place. 

  1. I don’t like people looking at my screen while I’m trying to get my lighting right - Simply put, stop worrying about it. We all have to work through the lighting, composition, etc. and your team already knows that. If you want to be safe, just let them know that you’re going to spend some time getting things dialed down and that what they see is just light tests. If your client is present then it’s best to have an assistant stand-in and help you get the lighting more or less set up before the model steps onto the set.
  2. I shoot on location and don’t have space for it - Sure, some of us may not have the luxury of a studio environment to work in, and if you can’t get a laptop set up on-location there are still other options. Fellow writers Clay Cook and Mike Kelley have written several great articles on the CamRanger which makes on location tethering simple and still gives you a lot of the benefits that traditional computer tethering does.
  3. It’s inconvenient - Sure, it’s more work to set up and more stuff to carry, but who said photography was about convenience? Getting a great shot takes work and it’s just another piece of the puzzle. What's more inconvienient is missing a big problem because you couldn't see it. 
  4. It’s buggy and freezes all the time - If you’re using Lightroom to tether then yes, you’ll be plagued with non-stop issues. Ever since I switched to Capture One Pro for tethering I haven’t missed a single frame.

As you read the above, you may start realizing that the majority of your hesitations towards tethered capture are self-inflicted. We look for reasons not to use it because it just seems easier and safer not to. Hopefully some of the reasons listed below will convince you that it is indeed worth trying out and not nearly as scary as it seems. 

A simple $200 IKEA cart - Use Gaffer tape to tape down hard drives and cables

You’ll Produce a Better Result

This most important argument for shooting tethered is in the results you’ll get at the end of your shoot. Your team is there to help you create great images but they can only fix what they see. By making the images accessible to everyone, the whole team can do their job to the best of their abilities. The stylist can see how the clothing is being lit and how it drapes, the make-up artist can watch out for tonal imbalances, hot spots or patches, the hair stylist will keep fly-away hairs in check and the model can see what poses and expressions work best. Be sure to let your team members know that the shoot is a collaborative effort and that you want everyone to solicit their input. This is important as some photographers are very closed-minded and often times team members don’t want to overstep their boundaries. By involving everyone you’re only helping yourself in the long-run.

You’ll Slow Down and Shoot Less

One thing I noticed once I started tethering is that I shoot far fewer frames than I used to. I’m able to slow down, evaluate my work and make the corrections I need to earlier, rather than relying on quantity to produce a great result. By knowing that others are watching, I’m also more motivated to compose my shots carefully, guide the model and get the best out-of-camera image I can. I can also bring the model in and easily show them which poses and expressions work and which don't and save wasted frames. 

You’ll Look Less Silly

I always felt a bit awkward going through images and squinting away at the back of my camera while the models sits and waits. Somehow you don’t get that feeling when evaluating images on a large display. While this may just be my perception, it’s also driven by the fact that I’m using the right tool to make my evaluation as opposed to something barely suited to the task. If I'm working with an assistant I can have them study the images as I shoot and alert me of techical problems, or if I have a great shot, and not have to peer down every couple of frames. 

Your Team and Client Can See Your Vision

When it comes to delivering a certain look, that look is partially driven by what you do in camera, but also what you do in post processing. Color grading and dynamic range adjustments can make the world of difference. Looking at the back of the camera is a poor indicator to both you and the client as to whether that vision is being met or not. Remember, your client and team members may not know anything about post processing so it’s your job to convince them that their vision is being met. The below image shows you the difference between the out of camera image and one with a few quick adjustments in Capture One Pro to bring it closer to our editorial concept. Check out my Guide to Getting Started with Capture One Pro for more information on how to make these adjustments. 

SOOC without any adjustments
After a few adjustments in Capture One - Much closer to the team's vision

It Saves you Time

While I’m a strong advocate of getting things right in-camera, the reason we spend thousands on high end cameras is to harness their benefits. By having the ability to immediately make adjustments to the raw file, I can see just how much shadow and highlight detail I have and decide whether I need to make further in-camera adjustments. If it turns out that a dark or bright area has ample detail for me to work off of in post-processing, I can save myself the trouble and time of making lighting ratio changes or additions and take advantage of the power of digital. Looking at the back of the camera, all we can do is hope that the information is there or spend extra time on set trying to get it perfect.

Another time-saver is the ability to do real time culling of my images as I’m shooting. If I know there are images that don’t work I’ll immediately flag them so that they don’t waste time down the road. Similarly, if I or my team members love a particular shot, I’ll mark it as such for later reference. Ultimately I can get through the culling phase back at my office much faster and have a feel for what the team was drawn to while we were shooting.

Finally, retouching time is dramatically reduced by eliminating issues on set. By going back to the first point I made, both myself and my team are better able to spot problem areas and quickly fix them before they are discovered down the road. Remember that a few stray hairs can mean hours of retouching time that adds no value to anyone.

It Gives you Confidence

Before shooting tethered, I was always hesitant as to whether I got “the shot” that would look fantastic. By studying the images with my raw adjustments, on a larger display and in the context of one another, I’m better able to gauge when we have the shot or if we need to keep working it. This once again goes back to the idea of shooting less. If I see a couple of standout images, I know that I can stop and move on.

It’s Safer

Shooting to the camera, you often only have the option of saving to a single card only (some cameras excluded), which is potentially dangerous if the card fails or is lost or stolen. When shooting directly to the computer, I create a minimum of 2 copies of each file on external drives that get transported back to the office separately. This replication is easily achieved through the use of software like Carbon Copy Cloner or Folder Watch. You can even take it a step further by simultaneously syncing files to cloud based storage for critical applications.

As someone that was vehemently opposed to tethered capture for many of the above reasons, I can say that after shooting tethered through Capture One for a few months now, I would never go back to staring at my LCD screen. Once you get over your reservations and self-consciousness, you’ll gain more confidence in the images you’re producing, end up with higher quality results and wonder how you ever shot without it.

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48 Comments

Scott S's picture

Great article and I completely agree. I have a tendency to just keep shooting and keep shooting which has historically given me a lot of crap to sort through. Since I've started tethering, it has forced me to slow down and actually analyze what I'm getting and where I'm going. My efficiency has increased tremendously and I love my shooting process. Still with glitchy LR, but hopefully I can step up to MF and Capture one some time this fall. Thanks again for the article!

Michael Woloszynowicz's picture

Thanks for reading Scott. I use Capture One with my D800 as well and it's been working like a charm. Highly recommend.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

YES!!! Thank you Michael!

Michael Woloszynowicz's picture

Thanks for reading Julia :)

Scott Spellman's picture

Tethered shooting is a great choice for most photo shoots. I use DSLR Remote Pro for fast response and large screen preview. I have the CamRanger which is a good IPad solution when it works, but overall not reliable enough for client use full time.

Mujtaba Sayed's picture

Great article, I try to shoot tethered whenever I can, there's nothing worse than doing an entire shoot, to find out later that the "perfect shot" you got, was out of focus, you really can't check all the finer details on the camera's lcd.

Simchy Zuckerman's picture

Great article!

Michael Comeau's picture

Not that it's going to matter much longer, but I shoot tethered into Aperture 3 all the time. Never had a problem with it - no issues with freezing or connections or anything.

Michael Woloszynowicz's picture

Yeah, I hesitate to recommend Aperture given that it's not a product any longer but have heard that it works quite well also.

David Justice's picture

My problem is waiting for the files to transfer. I don't want to wait for a 24mb file to transfer with an awkward silence in the time it takes to transfer to my laptop. It probably takes a good 15-20 seconds and I don't want to distract the model with waiting for the new picture. There's just a weird silence where we're both just staring at the screen or I'm still trying to shoot and she's just looking at the screen.

Dana Neibert's picture

Tethered shooting is usually nearly instantaneous with Capture One and large files. Also, turn monitors away from talent.

Alex Cooke's picture

Are you tethered with a cable or via wifi? Wifi will take much much longer.

Julien Kauffmann's picture

Nice article !

For my part i like to use the WIFI chip in my canon 6D to look at my pictures directly on my android phone or tablet or computer. It's a little bit slow but works very well. It permit me to llok at my camera and other teams people or model to look at the pictures on a different screen.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I shoot 5D3, tethered to LR on a MBP. Smooth as a smooth thing... no glitches here...

Anonymous's picture

Doesn't it come to a lack of concetration?

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Great article! I was sold on shooting tethering after watching a retouching workshop that started out with the shoot. I'm pretty certain it would crash my computer because it's a dinosaur so I'll have to wait until I get a new computer.

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks for this post! And, the shout out my friend!

steven spaulding's picture

while there are many advantages of shooting tethered, i do occasionally tether shoot. i have found that it can sometimes add a distraction to your subject, and take away their focus. and for me, i need their focus to be on posing, and not what is going on in the screen.

i suppose you could argue that they can use it to review their poses and have instant feedback as to how it looks and adjust on the fly.

Dana Neibert's picture

Definitely turn monitors away from talent. Like you said, it distracts them especially for the self-conscious.

steven spaulding's picture

don't get me wrong, i try to show my clients a few photo's from the sets just to show them how great they are doing and helps bring out a bit more of a genuine reaction and they get more pumped up when they know they are doing a good job.

Bavarian DNA's picture

Well, this is something i thought about long time, but im too lazy to carry around an additional weight on locations, i really hope that ipads can replace laptops soon and be capable of showing the raw files for reviews ( Or whatever tablet with power capabilities ). Though i completely agree with you about tethering while shooting

Matt Armendariz's picture

FANTASTIC article! You covered all the points so well. As a food photographer who works with food and prop stylists, shooting tethered is 99.9% of my workflow in the studio. As you mentioned, it lets the crew see the images and if I'm with a digital tech then I know I'll always be exposed and focused properly. About the biggest headache would be clients gasping and pointing at the screen over incorrect exposures, test shots, set-ups, etc. Luckily, I have a secret code to give my assistants which means to rotate the monitor or minimize the window so no one can see it just yet. I'm serious!

Anonymous's picture

Is there a reliable way to tether to an ipad yet?

Jay Goldz's picture

CamRanger, There is also a method using Eye-fi cards (if your camera has multiple card slots) shooting to main card RAW, and eyefi lowest level Jpeg it would take aprox 5-8 seconds so I've read. There's an article on Fstoppers as well.

Seoirse Brennan's picture

Epic as per usual Michael.

Chris Knight's picture

Absolutely! Great article as always!

elvio Junior's picture

Thanks Michael ! Completly agree with you !
One thing I notice, I used to do it on lightroom, then my images was recorded in my camera and lightroom folder. Now I 've been using C. One, it is recorded just im my C1 folder. how do you use it, Have you been recording it directly in you C1 folder or do you keep a copia in your camera ? :)

Brandy Yowell's picture

Agreed! Shooting teathered can be a lifesaver and is great for all the for mentioned reasons! Personally, I never want to shoot without it.

Arthur Ward's picture

Wonderful article Michael! I always shoot tethered when I can and like you mentioned, it allows me to shoot less but at a high quality, thus saving time.

Ralph Berrett's picture

A very good article I will have to think about using tethering more.

I have used tethering for my Nikon D2x and D3, I used Nikon's wifi setup for my cameras it was a bit of a pain to first setup and it eat camera batteries like popcorn. But what I liked was I could place art directors, clients and editors in another room while shooting. I will use wired tethering but as a second choice.

I use Nikon's Camera Control and Bridge. I use bridge because we have a network server and lightroom does not play nice with networks. Also because of the cloud licensing we are looking to cut back on Adobe products.

I found it's a good way to deal with clients on set but when shooting without clients I prefer shooting untethered maybe because I am an old school film shooter. ;)

I personally try to avoid showing clients unfinished images unless they understand the art, with art directors and editors they are hopefully experienced in seeing raw images and give some direction to their needs.

Showing a client a RAW image is a double edged sword if they do not understand photography then you have lowered their expectations giving them reason to look for issues. I prefer to show a client finished images.

JD J's picture

I have a Lightroom tether question: I have a Nikon D800 and whenever I shoot tethered, the pictures are not stored on my memory cards... they are directly imported into Lightroom. Is this normal? Am I missing something in my settings so that I can have it stored on my cards in camera too?

Mark Warren's picture

Unfortunately it's a Nikon thing that you can't shoot tethered to the computer and save to the memory card and computer at the same time. I also know in the past that you also don't get to see the image on the back of the screen and the computer at the same time if you shoot tethered. I don't know if that's still true with the D800 but that was the case with the D700 and D300, etc. These things are some of the reason I don't shoot with Nikon for my personal work. I do have to use Nikon cameras for my job but tethering is not an option there. :-(

JD J's picture

D800 still does not show image on back of screen while shooting tethered, or save to the memory card. Boo. =(

But thanks for the reply! At least its not just me!

David Apeji's picture

One option I have found to be useful is the Eye-fi with an iPad. You still have to download the images from the CF after the shoot but you get all the other listed advantages in a very compact and convenient package.

Sasha Juliard's picture

Very timely article. I was just thinking about getting a tethering set-up. Thanks!

Dana Neibert's picture

And don't forget, if you are going to start tethered shooting, you're going to need a DigiPlate (www.digi-plate.com) — shameless plug ; )

Matt Thompson's picture

I'm shooting tethered using LR5 on a 5 year old Macbook Pro, and don't usually have any issues, unless a cable gets pulled out during a shoot. Tethered is definitely a time saver, and helps me get my lights dialed in a lot quicker than chimping the LCD

Philip Vukelich's picture

I wouldn't necessarily say it is safer... it is true that once the file gets to the computer you can have it set to automatically back up. But often times (especially if you're not using the best tether gear) you can bump the connection a little while the shots are still transferring and then it messes up the whole connection and any photos you've shot in the previous "burst" are lost. I've never had a card die (and many cameras can shoot to 2 cards simultaneously if you want) but I've lost hundreds of photos due to a messed up tether connection. — But does that stop me from tethering still? Nope.

Derrel Ho-Shing's picture

HA, thanks Mike.... I just did a corporate shoot today and shot tethered using my brand new CamRanger, thanks to my buddy Clay Cook who swears by them.... It was a great experience... they clients thought it was cool, they could see the images on a bigger screen, and it made me look gangsta haha

Ahmed Agbabiaka's picture

I use wifi tethered in LR with a canon 70d. It's great. If your eos utility settings are proper, pics show up in 1 second or so.

Dave Wilson's picture

How can I deal with my habitual moving around like a pinball? I would destroy a lot of cables and laptops!

Dana Neibert's picture

The DigiPlate has a cable management system that will keep your cables from being yanked out of your laptop or breaking the ports. The DigiPlate has clamps that hold your laptop to it so it won't slide off. Then, when we shoot, we put the DigiPlate on a cart or heavily sandbagged C-Stand.

Olafs Osh's picture

Agreed. Although cannot agree on that Lightroom remark. Pretty smooth over here. [granted, I rarely shoot tethered and thus this could be a reason, that I haven't noticed any glitches. But I honestly have not.]

Alexander Masters's picture

I can shoot tethered (to my desktop) in studio, but I picked up a Wacom Cintiq Companion for location and it seems to be a little fair-weathered depending on the camera used. D700 is fine. Leaf Credo 80 is fine. D4? When it wants to.

If anyone knows why this might be..

Ramon Vaquero's picture

Fantastic article. Is there any way to shoot tethered with an iPad connected to the camera with a USB wire?

Duka Istvan's picture

A another tether shooting solution for windows users digiCamControl, free and support Canon and Nikon camera models too.

Product Photographer's picture

For the most part I like this article but the comment about Lightroom freezing up is not entirely accurate. I use LR and shoot tethered everyday on a MBP and have never had an issue with it. I think it really comes down to the author preferring Capture One. I tried it and didn't like it but everyone has their own preferences right?

Rogier Bos's picture

Thanks for the article. I shoot tethered in my studio sometimes. My laptop is connected to a HD projector which projects the image on a white wall. This gives me the — and, very importantly, the model — the chance to see what we are doing. I do use wifi with my D800. That's not very fast, but because the wife protocol of the camera allows me to pick the ones I want to transfer to the laptop, that speed does not hold me up. I use Lightroom 5 with full screen preview and have never experienced a problem with it.