Tethered shooting is a great way to make sure you’re “getting the shot”. Shooting tethered means that your DSLR camera is attached to your computer so that your images transfer directly to your hard drive instead of being saved to your memory card. The camera is normally connected to the computer via a USB cable,and some systems offer a wireless connection option as well. It is much easier to check exposure, focus etc. on a large computer screen than it is on your camera’s LCD.
You also need software on the computer to capture images from the camera. Starting with Lightroom 3 Beta 2, this function is built right into Lightroom for many Nikon and Canon camera models. Here’s how it works, and a couple of tips for making the most of it.
First, connect your DSLR to your computer using a USB cable and turn on your camera. If you shoot this way a lot you will want to get a long USB cable or a USB extension cord so you have enough cable to move freely. You’ll also want to make sure your computer is secured so you don’t pull it onto the floor with the USB cable.
In the Library module inside Lightroom 3 beta 2, select File> Tethered Capture> Start Tethered Capture… This will bring up the Tethered Capture dialog where you will select the session name, file naming options, destination, and metadata including keywords. When you click ‘OK’ you will see a bar with your camera name and current exposure settings. If your camera doesn’t show up right away try turning the camera off, then back on. I haven’t found that one way works better than another with my Nikon D700. Sometimes I turn the camera on first, sometimes I start tethering first. It doesn’t seem to make a difference. I would like to hear your experience in the comments.
Now you’re up and running. Here are a couple of ways to make the most of this setup using the Color Checker Passport from X-rite. Once you have your lighting set up, take a shot of the Color Checker Passport. Inside Lightroom, select the Passport shot and choose File> Export with Preset> Color Checker Passport. Name the profile (possibly the same as the session name), and the X-rite software will build a DNG profile for your particular camera and lighting situation.
You will need to quit Lightroom 3 beta 2 in order to use the new profile. Restart Lightroom and start Tethered Capture again. Your Session, Naming, etc. settings should be saved from earlier. Take a shot of your subject holding the Color Checker Passport and switch to the develop module. Go to the Camera Calibration Panel (command/cntrl 8) and select the profile you just created from the drop down menu. Press W to select the White balance eyedropper and click on one of the white balance targets on the Passport to set the white balance.
In the Tethered Capture control bar under Develop Settings, select Same as Previous. Now your shots will come straight from the camera with your custom profile applied and properly white balanced. Nice!
You can apply any develop settings this way. For example, you can get the sharpening or noise reduction the way you like it and automatically apply it to your photos as you’re shooting.
I like to make my previews as large as possible on my computer while I’m shooting tethered. Press the F key to enter Full Screen mode. There are three options here, so press F until the Lightroom interface takes up the whole screen. Now press command/cntrl tab to hide all of the panels. Press T to hide the toolbar at the bottom of your screen, then press \ to hide the Library filters bar if it’s visible. Now press E or double-click an image to enter Loupe view, and you will see you images at maximum size while you’re shooting tethered.