If you have never shot tethered before, you may wonder what the benefits are. In the most basic sense, it means that the camera is quite literally tethered (connected) to a viewing device such as a computer, but also sometimes a tablet or a projector. There are many reasons that photographers use tethered shooting and it's not appropriate for every job.
For example, shooting in a static position in a studio really lends itself to tethering, but subtle candid street photography does not (as it would draw attention!). Tethered shooting is going to be restrictive anytime you need to be on the move on location though, such as for sport or weddings, so you need to have a clear reason for deciding to do it.
1) The most beneficial part of tethered shooting is being able to see your images on a larger screen. The LCD screen on your camera is great for checking your exposure and composition, but a computer or laptop screen offers you a much better view, as well as a more detailed image. Viewing your shots on the computer allows you to more easily see the tonal range and colours that are being represented, as well as the small details of the composition. In addition, you can check your focus with increased accuracy. If you are working with a team, it is also much easier for everyone to see what is going on, without having to peer over your shoulder all the time.
Image taken by Pasi Salminen
2) Tethering also helps streamline a photographer’s workflow, by removing the need to download images after a shoot is complete. Because shooting tethered means that the images are transferred to the computer as soon as they are taken, they are ready to be viewed, sorted and edited immediately. Being able to see the shots as they appear also means that a client or assistant can rate or mark their favourites whilst the shoot is happening, saving you valuable sorting time later on.
3) The ability to control the camera remotely is also a huge benefit of shooting tethered. This is very convenient if the camera is in a tricky-to-access position, or the photographer wants to make adjustments without accidentally bumping the camera.
4) Finally, tethered shooting provides additional image backup, as the photographs are instantly saved to two locations – on the computer as well as on the memory card. Having your images saved in two locations gives you peace of mind on a shoot, allowing you to focus on what you are doing.
Image taken by Ted Dana
In order to start shooting tethered, you will need your camera, a computer or laptop, and a special cable called a tether cable. This cable connects the camera to the laptop, allowing for the transfer of the images. There are a few different types of tether cable, and the kind that you need will depend on the configuration of your camera’s port. In most instances, the cable required will be USB 2 or USB 3, and this may even have come with your camera. Sometimes, these cables can be a little bit short, so USB extension cables are also available. Some cameras are also able to tether wirelessly, allowing the photographer more room to move and to work moe easily on location.
Tethering also requires special software that facilitates the transfer of files from camera to computer. In many instances, the CD that comes with your camera will include some kind of tethering software (the EOS Utility for Canon, or the Nikon Capture for Nikon, for example). However, these programs tend to be very basic and limit what you can control. There are an abundance of tethering programs available to download online, some of which are free. The two most recognised programs, however, are Capture One and Adobe Lightroom.
Capture One is an industry standard, used by most professional shooters. It was originally designed to be used with the Phase One camera system, but has since become compatible with most camera brands and models. Lightroom has a strong following as a cataloguing and RAW processing tool, but it is also great for using as a tethered shooting device. Both programs are equally as adept. Within the tethering software, you can also make adjustments to the exposure, white balance, and lens correction, which will be carried over to each new image that is captured. This can save lots of time down the track.
Next time you are working in a studio, or on still life or portrait shoot, try tethered shooting and see if it enhances your work.