Tips for Tethered Shooting
by Floyd Dean
Tethered shooting is a method most photographers are familiar with. But many may not be aware of the various corresponding benefits available while tethered. I’ve found that, when applied correctly, tethered shooting can make things simple and effective while creating a great shot, every time.
Tethered shooting is simply connecting your camera to a computer using a USB cable - hence the term “tethered”- and using software to view the images as they are shot. To view the images, Capture One is my weapon of choice, but don't worry if you’re a Lightroom user, it works great there too.
To make sure you are getting the best shots while tethered and avoiding the potential pitfalls, follow our tips:
Prepare for Backup
By planning accordingly, you can actively back up your photos while you shoot tethered. You can connect a portable device to your computer, or set your software to automatically save to two places at once.
Plan accordingly with the cord
The obvious benefit of being tethered is the ability to quickly see the full image on a monitor. The back of the camera is nice for a quick check, but when you’re on location with clients, there’s no substitute for a real screen to evaluate and collaborate. We’ve used wireless, but with file sizes so large, it’s just too slow to handle RAW’s, leaving you importing cards after the shoot, and clients without an immediate level of satisfaction.
With all its usefulness, the strength of tethered is also its main draw back. You guessed it, the cord. We use 10 footers, which give a little slack when moving. Thing is, USB cords are relatively thin, and can become almost invisible when your focused on perfecting the shot with a client. That is, until you move, and feel that fateful twang of wire across shin, and are left contemplating whether its the camera, laptop, or both, which are crashing down around you. After 30 years in the business, this has happened more than a few times, and it’s never fun. These days I keep things as close as possible to protect the gear from others and myself on set, which is where having a tripod or arm solution, really comes in handy.
Properly Set up
Since being tethered means your camera will be directly connected to your laptop or computer, creating a set up that you are comfortable with is key.
The first set up you can use is the two-tripod setup. This is the set up used most when on location, because of its weight and stability.
When working outside, the ground often isn't level, and having the adjustable legs of a tripod, over something rigid like a c-stand, is really useful. Also, being carbon fiber and thus, lightweight, you can quickly pick up and move between scenes. This looks like a lot of legs but you quickly get used to it and appreciate how safe things are when nested closely.
The second set up is a compact solution that puts everything right at your fingertips. For this set up, I use Vanguard's ALTA Pro 283CT and Multi Mount system (available in select stores), which puts the computer right next to the camera.
Having the computer right next to the camera when shooting product is great because with a turn of the head, you can examine every detail without changing perspective, or losing rhythm. With product, where millimeter movements can feel like miles, and every painstaking detail important, this is incredibly useful.
These same qualities translate well into portrait work, where I’m able, again with just a turn of my head, to see all of the details without disturbing my connection with the subject, and flow of the shoot.
Choose Equipment that allows you to Pack Light
Being able to fold down tripods and place them in a light stand bag has really helped reduce our load. Lets face it, in today’s world, shipping and flying with a lot of gear gets expensive quickly. Smart planning and being efficient pays off in the long run.
My location equipment fits into 3 bags: My cameras, lenses, batteries, laptop and laptop stand all fit in my Vanguard Heralder 49 Backpack. My lights, more batteries, pocket wizards and misc. stuff all fit into a roller bag. Light stands, parabolic umbrella’s, ext. cords, and reflectors all into a large light stand bag.
Being tethered provides flexibility and proximity to all equipment, which allows you to focus on the most important thing: crafting an amazing image. After all, isn't that the point of great gear? To be able to trust that it is doing what it should, allowing us to focus on being creative.
Thanks for reading.
Camera: Sony A7RII’s, and A7SII
Lenses: Sony Zeiss 16-35, 24-70, 70-200
Tripod: Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT, Vanguard Veo 265CB
Vanguard Multi Mount 6 for mounting Camera and Computer on one tripod
Cable: 10ft USB
Instand Computer Platform
Computer: MacBook Pro 15” Retina
Software: Capture One