What You Need to Start Shooting Tethered

Nailing focus is probably the main reason to consider shooting tethered. As a photographer, you’ve probably been there before. You’re shooting, looking at that tiny 3″ screen on the back of your camera and believe you have the results that you want. However, when you upload the images to your computer you notice that the focus may have been off, or the model’s hair is out of place. These problems could have been easily avoided if you shot tethered. If you’ve never heard of tethered photography or think it’s too complicated, we’ll explain this relatively simple concept.

First, you connect (tether) your camera to your computer with a USB cable and then use software to show the images on your laptop or computer as you are shooting. As you shoot, your images will appear on your laptop and you can check critical focus, zoom in, check your model/subject, and check lighting. With a few simple tools, you can easily start shooting tethered on location or in-studio, or even tether wirelessly using a few accessories.

Camera Requirements for Shooting Tethered

Before you can begin shooting tethered, you need to learn the specific requirements for both your camera and computer. Most DSLR, mirrorless, and medium format cameras are USB or Firewire compatible, meaning they have a USB or Firewire port for copying images from a card to a computer. However, this does not necessarily mean that the camera has tethering capabilities. Growing demand for tethering has led manufacturers to introduce and improve tethering functionality in many newer cameras. Even so, you should reference your camera manual to confirm that it’s capable of tethering and, if so, identify which types of images it’s designed to transfer – JPEG, RAW, or both. Remember to look for the phrases Direct Image Transfer and Instant Image Transfer, as well as any references to tethering.

Choosing the Right Tethering Software

First, it’s important to realize that not all software supports all cameras. If you’re shooting Nikon or Canon, support looks much better than if you’re shooting Sony, Olympus, Fuji, or some other manufacturer. To help you find the software, we’ve developed a tethering software database where you can search by camera model for compatible software. In addition to your camera’s utility software, there are a couple common standouts used by photographers shooting tethered.

File menu showing how to access Tethered Capture in Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a comprehensive RAW processing and photo management application that includes tethering functionality for select Canon, Nikon, and Leica digital cameras. Lightroom offers only limited access to camera settings directly from a computer but fully supports instant viewing, zooming, rating and tagging of shots. You can even set it up to import photos into a specific Lightroom catalog as they are taken. Like all other tethering software, Lightroom displays your high-resolution files on the tethered screen as you capture them, so you can easily check focus, lighting and composition in great detail. Lightroom is available for both Windows and Mac. You can find out if Lightroom supports your camera for tethering on their Tethered Camera Support in Lightroom page.

Capture One Pro

Phase One’s Capture One Pro is a professional RAW converter and image editing software that also includes extensive tethering features. It enables you to capture, organize, edit, share and print images in a flexible and efficient cabled tethering workflow. Phase One also offers a tool/app that connects Capture One Pro to an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone so users can present, rate, zoom, and even trigger the camera wirelessly using compatible mobile devices. Capture One supports over 400 camera for tethered capture and you can see them all on their Supported Cameras page.

For an expanded list of tethering software options, please see this Find Your Software page.

Tether Tools cable in the studio connecting camera to laptop.

USB Cables

You’ve got the camera, the computer, and the tethering software. Now you need a USB cable! Not all USB cables are created equal. The choice of professional photographers and videographers everywhere is Tether Tools’ high-visibility orange TetherPro USB cables and they have become synonymous with tethered photography.

TetherPro USB cable compared to standard USB.

TetherPro USB cables are constructed to the highest possible USB specifications and incorporate all of the latest technology ensuring consistent and reliable conductivity and the fastest and most reliable transfers. To find the correct cable that will work with your specific camera visit Tether Tools and click the Search by Camera dropdown on the top of the page.

The Ultimate Tether Guide: Download Now for Free

Tether Tools and the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) just released a recently-updated Ultimate Photo Tethering Guide designed to walk photographers through tethered photography. The guide is perfect for those who’ve never tried tethering and is also good for experienced tethered photographers looking to streamline their workflows. The Ultimate Tether Guide is available as a free download here.

Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at BorrowLenses.com. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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