Bio: In addition to being Tether Tools Director of Business Development, Wes Maggio is a long-time photographer and educator.
When I first heard of tethered photography, I sort of wrote it off as being difficult, or a workflow limited to “the pros”. Turns out, I wasn’t alone. A lot of photographers thought that way. (Still think that way!) Little did I know then, shooting tethered is quite simple!
It wasn’t until I got a product photography gig—back in 2011—that I decided to investigate the concept of shooting tethered. The product was cookies and other edible treats for a local cookie shop. I was going to be working with the proprietor who would be assisting me with the set up and styling, so I thought that it would be convenient to look at the images that I captured on a larger screen vs. the back of my camera.
Not sure exactly what I needed, I searched the internet (of course) and found Tether Tools. Specializing in products for photographers that shoot tethered, I trusted that they would steer me right. Always on a budget, I simply purchased a 15-foot cable for my Nikon D800. For this camera, I needed a cable with a Micro-B connection to the camera and a USB 3.0 connection to the computer.
The shoot was to take place in the kitchen at the cookie shop. I knew that it was going to be pretty tight quarters, so I opted to set my laptop right on the counter next to the light shed that I would shoot the product in.
Making the connection between the camera and the computer was the first part of the setup. From there, I needed some kind of software to shoot “to”. And the best software to start with, is the software that you have! For me, that was Adobe Lightroom. I had been a Lightroom user for a few years already, and I knew that it supported tethered capture, but without a need (or understanding as was the case) I never explored it.
Lightroom did the trick, and it was ridiculously simple to set up! I just plugged my cable into my camera and computer, and then started tethered capture in Lightroom.
With each capture, the images popped up on my laptop within a couple of seconds. From there, the client and I looked over the frame and made sure that the product looked good. While she was concerned with aesthetics, I was looking at exposure and detail. Together, we got the shot!
Having enjoyed the collaborative aspect of shooting tethered, when my next portrait shoot came around, I thought I’d give it another try. This time however, I wasn’t going to have a counter to set my laptop on, so I decided to get a “Tether Table”. To be specific, I got a Pro Tethering Kit which included the table and a bunch of accessories to make up a complete tethering workstation.
The Tether Table attached to the top of my tripod in place of the ballhead. This setup put my laptop within arms-reach of where I was shooting, making it convenient for me to review the photos as I took them. Further, it enabled me to share and discuss the photos throughout the shoot with my subject.
Again, I loved the collaborative aspect of shooting tethered. The one downside to the portrait shoot was having to set my camera on a chair each time I went over to speak to my subject or work on the computer. It wasn’t a hinderance to the shoot itself, but it certainly could have been more convenient, and it didn’t look very professional. The other thing that I noticed was the tension that the cable placed on my camera as I moved around the set. Concerned that it would break my cable or damage the USB port, I figured that there had to be a solution for that.
Back to Tether Tools! First, I addressed the stress on the port from camera movement. Tether Tools makes an inexpensive product called a JerkStopper which takes the strain off the camera port and places it on the cable which is much stronger.
Next, I picked up a Rock Solid 4-Head Crossbar. Just like the Tether Table, the crossbar sits on the tripod in place of the ballhead. It has two moveable heads on top and one on each side of the bar. Using one of the two heads on top of the crossbar, I attached my table. I then placed my ballhead on the adjacent head. This gave me a place to put my camera when I am not holding it! No more setting it on the floor or chair!
That’s how I got started, and quickly grew to appreciate what shooting tethered could do for my workflow, creativity and overall product. To this day, the crossbar, table, ballhead combination is my preferred tethering setup. Whether I’m headed down the street to a shared studio that I use, or some other on-location shoot, I’ve got a compact and convenient tethered workstation with me. And it all started with a cable!