BEST software options for shooting tethered in a studio or on location

Are you ready to start shooting tethered?  Are you looking for the best software to use?  Tethering doesn’t have to be difficult.  In this video, I am going to break down your options and look at why you might pick one over the other, and I’ll even explain how I create backups of my files as they are downloaded to my computer.  Stay tuned!

Hey gang!  One of the first things you need to consider before you shoot with your camera tethered to your computer – is the software.  Now if your not sure what all this tethering stuff is and how you do it – go back and watch this video so that your up to speed.

 

Before we dig in – let be clear about one thing… the ability to tether is an incredible asset if you are an advanced shooter and have reached a point in your development as a photographer where you have learned the true value of having a workflow and a consistency to your process.  This is not a technique for beginners.

There is also a philosophy held by many people that shooting tethered is difficult and an inconvenience.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes – there is a learning curve, but we are living in an era where people expect images quickly if not immediately.  Shooting tethered has allowed me to deliver finished images within hours of a shoot – without sacrificing any quality or compromising my workflow.

Many of you are already using a piece of software that will allow you to shot tethered, but before we look at the software – let’s talk about some computer requirements.  You are going to be downloading large raw files in real time to a computer while you shoot.  It goes without saying that a faster processor is desirable.  However the most important spec is the RAM.  This is where the real work happens and also where the bottleneck occurs if you don’t have enough.

For laptops I would recommend at least 16gb of ram and you will want to use external hard drives since laptops generally don’t have lots of storage space available.  Be sure that your external drives are 7200 RPM or faster.  The higher the RPM – the faster your computer will be able to read and write the larger camera files.

For Desktop computers, you want the same minimum specs, however it is even faster if you have an internal storage drive that is 7200 RPM or faster, or better yet a solid state drive.  Solid state drives have no moving parts and are less likely to fail.

Your backup hard drives don’t need to be as fast as the primary storage drives, because they won’t impact your ability to download files from the camera and process them quickly.
 

Software Options

“There are a lot of options for shooting tethered”

“There are really only two choices for shooting tethered”

 
I know – those two statements contradict each other right?  Not really.

Let’s start with the first statement.  Depending on your needs, there is along list of options.  Adobe Lightroom – which many of you already have, Capture One Pro, Darkroom Core, Smart Shooter, If your a Nikon photographer there is Nikon Camera Control Pro, for Canon shooters there is the Canon EOS Utility, Sony has the Sony Remote Camera Control, heck even Hassleblad has the Hasselblad Phocus and the list goes on… You can even find some open source software like DigiCamControl if you are ok with the adventure that comes along with Open Source.  For a complete list of options with links to their websites, be sure read to the end of this article.

The challenge with all of these different software options is that some of them are camera specific, some have very limited options and some contain specialized features like multiple camera control, time lapse, and HDR.

“There are really only two choices for shooting tethered” that refers to the two most full featured software options which are compatible with the most cameras and they would be Adobe’s Lightroom and Capture One Pro 10.

Most of you are familiar with Adobe Lightroom and are probably already using it or have used it in your evolution as a photographer.  Lightroom is available for Windows and Mac and it will allow you to tether with select Canon, Nikon and Leica Cameras.  For you Sony, Olympus, Fuji and Pentax owners, there are workarounds or plugins that you can purchase to allow tethering with Lightroom.  As an example, Sony users can use the FREE Sony Camera Remote Control software to download images from their camera to the computer and then set Lightroom to watch the import folder and Auto Import the files into Lightroom.

This brings me to the first reason I don’t use Lightroom to tether…  It is painfully slow.  In my opinion if you are shooting products, or simple portraits then Lightroom is more than adequate.  But if you are a heavy shooter like I am and you want speed – Lightroom will be a very frustrating experience for you.

That brings me to Capture One Pro 10. Also available for Windows and Mac, Capture One Pro has long been the industry standard for fast tethering and an extremely powerful raw converter.  Capture One also has an app called Capture Pilot that will allow you to connect an iPhone or iPad to the software for remote viewing and even triggering of your camera.  Capture Pilot has a web option that will allow Android users to view the images but not operate the camera.

Now for the downsides on Capture One Pro.  It comes with a hefty price tag and a sizable learning curve.  Currently a single user license is about $300.00 to purchase outright or $12.95 per month on a subscription basis.  This is not a program that you install and find yourself using it like a pro in 10 minutes, even if you are a master at photoshop.  Phase One – the parent company of Capture One Pro provides excellent learning tutorials on their website.  So if you make that change – watch those tutorials.

The reason for the learning curve is that this software is much more robust when it comes to color management than any other software not the market.  Capture One’s Skin Tone Editing features are beyond compare.  If you are a photographer that really wants control over every detail of your shot – Capture One is the software that you should be using – which is the second reason I don’t use Lightroom to tether – I am am people shooter so those skin tones are incredibly important to me.

Capture One Pro is not a Photoshop replacement.  Blemish repair, liquify, compositing, all that fun stuff – that is still going to happen in Photoshop.

Just like buying a piece of equipment – don’t take someone else word for it – do your due diligence.  Most of these software options offer free trial downloads.  Remember – the full list of options is on my blog and the link is in the description below.

Back Up your downloads

There are numerous options for creating backups on the fly.  I am not going to tell you what is best for you – I’m going to tell you what is best for me.  Just like with the software – do your research and find your best solution – just be sure to back things up while you are shooting.

Canon cameras offer a feature called Parallel file writing.  This allows you to shoot tethered and have the files written to your cameras memory card as well as downloaded and saved to your computer.  Nikon, Sony and the others don’t offer this option.

So my solution is two external hard drives.  The primary is a 1tb Solid state hard drive.  This is the drive the the files are download to from the camera.  The second drive is a 1tb 7200rpm drive which is the back-up drive.

I use a simple piece of software called Good Sync which is available for Windows and Mac to monitor my primary drive and copy files to the backup drive.  After the shoot, I then transfer files from the solid state drive to my main system where they are automatically backed up again and also backed up off-site using the system that I describe in this video.

After I know that the files are backed up on my main system and offsite, I clear both of the external drives that I used during the shoot.

So there you have it, a starting point for your research on tethering software and some background on why I use Capture One pro and how I backup my files.  Tethering also provides me with another benefit that I didn’t mention in this video….  I have a bad habit of working too fast.  Working fast inevitably leads to mistakes.  Tethering forces me to slow downed allows me to process my files during the shoot so I am able to have an incredible amount of control over my images – while I am still in the studio with the subject in front of my camera.

If you are a beginner at photography and still learning the basics like the exposure triangle and depth of field… store this information in the back of your mind and go out and shoot a heck of a lot more images before you seriously consider making this step.  If you are experienced with shooting people and feel that you have your technique down and you are comfortable with your post production techniques – then tethered shooting is going to allow you to take your imagery to the next level.

Some of you may ask about tethering wirelessly and why I didn’t cover it in this video. For my needs – wireless tethering is not ready for prime time – mainly due to the slow downloads.  I am pretty confident that will change over time – but its not there yet.

Whatever you do – pick up that camera and shoot something because your best shot – it’s your next shot.  So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting.  Adios!

The LIST of Tether Software

Adobe Lightroom
Supports Canon, Leica, Nikon on Windows, Mac

AstroDSLR
Supports Canon on Mac

BackyardEOS & BackyardNIKON
Supports Canon, Nikon on Windows

Breeze Systems
Supports Canon, Nikon on Windows, Mac

CameraRC
Supports Nikon on Windows

Canon EOS Utility
Supports Canon on Windows, Mac

Capture One Pro
Supports Canon, Mamiya Leaf, Nikon, Panasonic Lumix, Phase One on Windows, Mac

Capture One Pro (for Sony)
Supports Sony on Windows, Mac

ControlMyNikon
Supports Nikon on Windows

Darkroom Core
Supports Canon, Nikon on Windows

darktable
Supports Canon, Nikon on Linux

digiCamControl
Supports Canon, Nikon on Windows

DNA Software
Supports Minolta, Pentax, Samsung, Sony on Windows, Mac

Entangle
Supports Canon, Nikon on Linux

Fuji Hyper-Utility Software
Supports Fuji on Windows, Mac

FujiFilm Tethered Capture Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Supports Fuji on Windows, Mac

Kuuvik Capture 2
Supports Canon on Mac

Lightroom Plugin for Hasselblad
Supports Hasselblad on Windows, Mac

Nikon Camera Control Pro 2
Supports Nikon on Windows, Mac

Olympus Capture
Supports Olympus on Windows, Mac

PENTAX Tethered Capture Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Supports Pentax on Windows, Mac

Phocus
Supports Hasselblad on Windows, Mac

PK_Tether
Supports Pentax on Windows

pkTriggerCord
Supports Pentax on Windows, Linux

Promote System USB Tether for Lumix
Supports Panasonic Lumix on Windows, Mac

Smart Shooter 3
Supports Canon, Nikon on Windows, Mac

SofortBild
Supports Nikon on Mac

Sony’s Camera Remote Control
Supports Sony on Windows, Mac

TetherPro
Supports Canon, Nikon on Windows

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