Back in 2011, Lightstalking writer and photographer Mike Panic wrote an excellent article on how to shoot tethered. For the uninitiated, tethering allows you to connect your camera directly to a computer, in turn allowing you to control most main elements of the camera from the computer, and download the files directly to a preset folder on that computer. In his article, Mike demonstrated how to set up and shoot using Lightroom 3. Rather than repeat his advice, I am going to have a look at software both free and paid that you can use to shoot tethered.
For the most part most modern Nikon and Canon cameras have tethering capabilities, tethering support for other manufacturers is slowly increasing but you may need to check your camera’s compatibility
Lets start by taking a look at some of the paid software. Although you may not know it, some of you may already have software for tethering your camera. Anyone who uses Adobe’s Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture will already have tethering available to them. The obvious advantage of these two products are that as they are full image management programs, you can literally shoot directly into your catalogue, saving on organizational time. You can also apply certain metadata presets as the images are imported.
Another high end option is the dedicated RAW program Capture One Pro 7 from Phase One. This program not only features full tethering capabilities but also has a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch called Capture Pilot which enables you to view, rate zoom and tag images either as RAW or JPGs whilst they are being shot. This allows you to provide instant feedback in remote locations away from the shoot. The program itself allows you to apply multiple preset styles whilst shooting.
Another supplier of tethering software is Breeze Systems. Rather than produce a single program for Canon or Nikon they separate products, DSLR Remote Pro for Canon and available in Mac or Windows, NKRemote for recent Nikons on Windows only. They also produce PSRemote which allows basic tethering facilities for some Canon Powershot series of cameras including the G series. You may need to spend some time on their website as the layout can be a touch confusing, as can the product range.
TetherPro is a full functioned remote for Nikon cameras only. It is a Windows only product that features live histograms, automatic backup, bracketing and full raw capability. Its is currently (Jan 2013) keenly priced at $24.99
For Canon shooters, the Canon EOS Utility that comes free with Canon DSLRs has an excellent range of features and works both on Mac and Windows. Nikon users, unfortunately have to pay for Nikon’s own software, Nikon Camera Control Pro 2, but it is very well featured, allowing you to upload your own customized picture controls back to your camera and allows for LiveView in certain Nikon cameras.
One program of interest to Mac, Nikon users is Sofortbild. This is a free, yet very powerful tethering program with features found on some high end software. It can capture directly to Aperture or iPhoto, allows interval timing and has an automatic HDR facility.
Lastly for this list is DSLR Camera Remote. This is an app for iPhone or iPad and supports the new retina displays on iDevices. There is a misconception that it controls your camera directly, however, the camera still needs to be connected to a computer running the supplied server software. When shooting, you can save full res versions to the computer and low res previews to the iDevice.
There are a number of other products out there that do the same thing – the ones listed above are perhaps the most popular. When choosing tethering software, work out what your needs are before purchasing, as not all products have all the same features. Some things to think about include:
- Can you apply presets and metadata to imported images?
- Does the software provide a full range of exposure and focus controls?
- Can it write both to card and computer simultaneously, useful for back ups?
- Is it fast, a slow transfer/write speed could hinder you in a fast moving studio environment?
- Can you shoot video?
- Does it include HDR, intervalometer and other useful modes?
Tethering has many uses, both in the studio and to a certain extent in the field. It can increase your productivity, give live feedback to clients and allow remote shooting. Its well worth having a look at some of this products, many will have a 30 day trial meaning you can test extensively without committing your hard earned money.