I’m a big advocate of shooting tethered into Lightroom. Great synergies result when I send images from my DSLR straight into Lightroom.  Even on location shoots, I’ll tie my camera into my laptop. Here’s a run down of the benefits of tethered shooting – for both photographers and their clients.

Hardware & Software For Tethered Shooting

Like many shooters, you might be surprised to learn that you already have all (or most) of the gear needed for tethered shooting. [In a future post, I’ll give you the details on how to set it up.]

  • Digital SLR – Virtually any DSLR with a data port and external control software can be used for tethered shooting.
  • Lightroom – Built by Adobe from the ground up for digital photography. In the past six months, it has become the backbone of my digital workflow.
  • Data Transfer Cable – Most DSLRs come with a data transfer cable (although I’ve since purchased longer and more robust cables).
  • Software for Camera Control (“Capture”) – This is the software by which your computer can actually control the camera’s settings. Canon provides Canon EOS Utility with their DSLRs. If you’re a Nikon shooter, you’ll have to get Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 [30-day trial here]. If you’re an Olympus shooter, you have to get Olympus Studio [30-day trial here].

How You’ll Benefit By Shooting Tethered Into Lightroom

  • Precise Evaluation Of The Exposure – Even if you’re shooting RAW, the histogram on your camera’s LCD is still derived from JPEG data (think “close but not perfect info”). If you’re exposing so that the histogram is as far as you can to the right without clipping highlights, the LCD on your camera still might be too conservative. The histogram in Lightroom is built on the RAW data and is far more accurate. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to see. Further, you can use the exposure slider in Lightroom to determine the correct exposure setting for your camera. When evaluating a test image in Lightroom, if you slide the Exposure setting up .66 so that the histogram hovers just below the threshold of highlight clipping, you should open your aperture by 2/3 of a stop (as in open from f/8 to f/6.3) for your next test shot. Shoot again and evaluate the new histogram.
  • Seeing The Exact Point Of Focus – If you’re shooting for minimum or selective depth-of-field, such as with macro or food photography, it’s far easier to immediately view the image on a large monitor rather than the camera’s LCD. Being able to zoom in to 100% moments after the image is made is a great help. I’ve joked that shooting tethered is like strapping a huge magnifying glass to the back of my camera.

Power-Chimping (above) or Tethered Into Lightroom (below)

  • Evaluate The Gamut of  Color-Critical Subjects – If you’re creating color-critical images that have to fit into a reduced color space (like CMYK for the printing of catalogs and magazines), tethered shooting enables real-time, soft-proofing during the shoot. That’s a fancy way of saying that if it’s really important to get the exact shade of your client’s red dress to print, during a tethered shoot you can determine if its vibrant colors fall within the printable range of CMYK colors. [For more info on color management, read this post.]
  • Create Job Specific File Names – Forget about names like “_MG_0319.CR2”. It’s easy to configure Lightroom to automatically rename your files as they come in. “Client_Date_Subject_0319.CR2” is far easier to understand in the days and weeks after the shoot. Renaming the files at the time of capture assures consistency throughout the shoot.
  • Add Detailed Copyright Data – Lightroom will embed complete copyright and contact information as your images are imported. Yes, you can do this later… but, having it done automatically as the images come in is more efficient.
  • Append Job Specific Keywords On The Fly – Lightroom will append specific keywords as the images come in. This is very helpful on long shoots where you’ll likely want to view groups of images by subject, set number or another criterion for a quick evaluation.
  • Immediate Data Redundancy – Most DLSRs will record the image to the camera’s card and simultaneously send the data down the cable. So, even on a field shoot, with nothing more than your camera, a cable and a laptop, you can have immediate data redundancy.
  • With Tabletop Work, Tethered Is Far More Comfortable – If you’re shooting tabletop or some other static set where the camera is bolted to a tripod, you can save your back by driving the camera from your desktop rather than from behind the tripod. Once the frame is composed, you can change the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, metering pattern, etc. from your keyboard.

How Shooting Tethered Into Lightroom Benefits Your Clients

  • Client Confidence – If your art director and client are on set, you can keep them at a distance by tethering into a long cable and configuring Lightroom to show each capture as a single, high-resolution image on screen as they come in. That way, they can see the images without standing over your shoulder.
  • Closed Workflow – When shooting tethered on location or in your studio, your clients will view the images on your calibrated monitor rather than on their (often lousy) office monitor. This is invaluable when matching colors to products is critical.
  • X/Y Comparisons – You can ease your client’s frustrations with sensory overload by presenting only two image candidates at a time and have her choose one of the two. Then bring up another image for comparison and have her choose the best of those two. For clients who are not professional photo editors, this is a very easy way to select the hero images.
  • Keep Track of Client Selects – Get your client’s approval and flag her selects before the set is struck. Being able to quickly pull up a gallery of client selects will help you and your client maintain image consistency over a long shoot.
  • Create Web Galleries… Quickly – With Lightroom, it’s easy to create and upload web galleries. Your client’s associates (or her clients) can review progress of? the shoot via web galleries – while the shoot is still underway.

Tethered Shooting Is Not So Great When…

  • The Subject Is Running – There are maximum lengths for cables (USB = 80′ with active extensions, Firewire = 120′ with powered hub). If your subject is moving beyond the range of the cable, you’ll have to make your computer rig mobile or you’ll have to limit your range of shooting.
  • You’re Shooting Faster Than The Camera Can Transfer Data – If you’re shooting like a machine gun, it’s probable that the camera won’t be able to transfer the data fast enough. In this situation, it’s possible to do your test shots (for exposure etc.) while tethered, uncable and then shoot to the camera’s card.

35 Responses to The Benefits of Shooting Tethered Into Lightroom

  1. Ken says:

    Thanks for this post.

    I have the Nikon D300 and the Nikon capture, but I can’t seem to find a 10 ft data cable that will work with the D300.

    Any suggestions on this.

    Brand, where to buy??



  2. Joe says:

    interesting that you chose a 5D for the photo. I have been having a heck of a time trying to get the 5D to tether to LR. I don’t seem to have the CD anymore and trying to find it to download has been frustrating. I have read online of quite a few people having problems even with the correct software for some reason.

    • Syl Arena says:

      Joe – I’ve done the vast majority of my tethered shooting on a 5D. The only time I go to a “larger” camera is when I need to shoot for a double spread. My quick advise is to search Fred Miranda and Rob Galbraith for links to Canon EOS Utility. I have a couple of very detailed posts in development on the subject of rigging the hardware and software (with tons of screen shots) coming. So stay tuned.

  3. Jack Miller says:

    I have been shooting tethered, but only to Canon DPP because it was simple. Thanks for the inspiration. Will have to get my courage up and give it a try. Hope your soccer registration went well.


  4. […] Following up from my link to the Tethered Shooting Plug-in, here is an article showing how to do tethered shooting by Pixsylated. […]

  5. Ken says:

    Thank you very much for the help.

    I got it thanks


  6. Simon Le says:

    For Nikons, who do not want to spend out for Capture pro, try the following it works on D70, D300 + others, http://www.diyphotobits.com/tag/d300/ This is a very clever guy. Simon

  7. Patrick says:

    I’ve always shot tethered from way back when phaseone camera backs were scanning. Now that I shoot mostly with Canon I still do the same on location or in the studio. If a client wants to see what I’m doing they just have to look at the image on the monitor, which makes it easier for everyone.

  8. […] Got everything hooked up. I will be shooting with my camera tethered to my laptop, dumping raw files straight into lightroom. […]

  9. Bill says:

    I have been tethered shooting with my Canon 40D using Canon EOS Utility and Lightroom. I was surprised how easy it was to do, if you follow a sequence. Camera on and connected to my laptop. Start the Canon EOS Utility and then start Lightroom. I have the Canon EOS Utility download the photo I just shot to the same folder Lightroom monitors to import the photo from.


  10. Shawn says:

    Alright guys,
    I know, I know, not everyone can do this, in fact besides the Canon 40D and the new 5D I don’t know of any other camera (I haven’t looked much either) but I shoot wireless tethered. I know its a couple bucks extra but I have no clue why you wouldnt purchase the WFT. When my wife heard wireless she purchased the transmitter for me. Depending on your wireless connection it may be slow but I tested it in a casino hotel room once and well without timing it I amazed with how fast it transferred to my Laptop. Lovin it… For what it’s worth, my two cents .


  11. […] Is there a way to automate this? waple, Please read this article for all the things you can do with tethered shooting __________________ […]

  12. […] Is there a way to automate this? waple, Please read this article for all the things you can do with tethered […]

  13. CP says:

    This guy has put together a LR tether solution for Mac 10.5 and LR 2


    • Syl Arena says:

      The Mountain Storm plug-in is still very much in beta. Be sure to read all of the material on the site. You MUST have Lightroom V2 and Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard). Essentially the plug-in enables shooting directly into LR. I’m still checking it out and will report in a separate post. It’s not a big deal for Canon shooters (who received EOS Utility with their cameras) to set up the Canon software. You get total control of your camera settings from your computer keyboard that way. Nikon and other shooters who don’t get camera control software with their rigs might like the Mountain Storm plug-in because it’s shareware – meaning that you download it for free and then make a donation after you verify that it works.

  14. […] a painters pole, but if you have the budget and really want to look ultra-professional (or use your DSLR tethered into Lightroom maybe), one of these might be for you. If you find something similar at a lower price point, let me […]

  15. Electronick says:

    Thanks for your article! I have everything to do it, and never think to do that. I’m going to try to set it up, and if it’s not ok, I’ll be waiting you solution 🙂

  16. Hi Syl,
    I’ve been working with Rich trying to aid him getting a Canon version going. Why? Well because while EOS Utility is free, it’s also slow. There’s the camera buffer, the first file write and then the transfer file write. I’m hoping Rich (mountain storm) can get something that simply makes it go faster!

  17. Jack Miller says:

    Got it working on my 1D-MarkIII. I followed this link:


    Took about 15 minutes to set up. Very cool. Now I too can soak up the benes!


  18. Raymond says:

    Syl, you kindly mentioned my free windows script for tethered shooting. I’d like you to know I just rewrote it to make it a bit less “geeky” — now it has a proper user interface with buttons and a preview window and stuff like that.


    It’s early days yet but I have lots of great ideas on how to advance it with things like shutter and aperture control from the PC. Automated backup or processing of incoming images (how about apply a photoshop action to each image as it is downloaded). And of course time laps.

    I hope this info can help some Windows/Nikon shooters who might want to try tethering but don’t need to do it professionally — I still of course say people should use the pro software if they are shooting pro. My script is just a little fun toy for people who want to try out these ideas.

  19. Hy Syl,
    I’m quoting you “Evaluate The Gamut of Color-Critical Subjects – If you’re creating color-critical images that have to fit into a reduced color space (like CMYK for the printing of catalogs and magazines), tethered shooting enables real-time, soft-proofing during the shoot.” How can you do this in Lightroom without opening Photoshop?

    • Syl Arena says:

      Joao – With LR2 and CS3, you can not soft-proof without opening Photoshop. It’s on the wishlist that I’ve sent to Adobe. My workflow for soft-proofing is to quickly open the image from LR into PS, turn on soft-proofing for CMYK and take a quick look. Once PS is launched, it takes less than a minute. Hopefully, in a future generation of LR, we’ll have the ability to soft-proof directly.

  20. “Hopefully, in a future generation of LR, we’ll have the ability to soft-proof directly.” Let us pray… Thanks for your answer

  21. Franco Grillo says:

    Does anyone know how to connect a Canon EOS camera to 64-bit Vista? There are no 64-bit Vista drivers on the Canon website. Without the driver my PC does not recognise the camera (I have a 20D) and that makes tethered shooting impossible. Any ideas?

  22. PCB says:

    Use Mountainstorm at your own risk! It killed the card that was in my camera… not good.

  23. Steve says:

    Be wary of tethering using Mac OS 10.5.6 – Once you have more than about 120 shots, 10.5.6’s USB drivers go flaky. Apparently, Apple updated the USB drivers between 10.5.5 and 10.5.6 to get greater speed out of the drivers. Unfortunately, they introduced problems for those of us who tether into Macs using 10.5.6. See http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t31019.html for more details on the problem.

  24. Michael Warf says:

    I made a quick video tutorial on how to use MountainTether on Mac OSX 10.5.6 – I hope it helps a few of you out.


  25. jim lyle says:

    do faster cpu’s mean faster load times?



  26. Peter Marin says:

    Yes, shooting tethered into Lightroom is awesome……..except when you didn’t realize the cable to the camera has slightly pulled out and data is no longer being sent to your ‘puter. For this reason, I now gaffer tape my cable to the side of my 5D. The mini USB plug get loose very quickly, especially when shooting while standing, like in a studio shoot situation. Shooting static subjects is obviously not a problem, but just be mindful of the cable coming away slightly from the camera port.
    Also, when the plug is re-inserted it usually requires a re-boot and new ‘watched folder’ be created. Not good half way through a shoot.
    Since I’ve ironed out my bug, everything is working out really well and the clients get a buzz seeing there stuff virtually straight away.
    One of the best things a stated is the viewing the RAW data instead of the processed jpeg.


  27. Danny Donuts says:

    Get rid of the cable. Use a wireless dongle set as shown in the demo here:


    You can even build your own wireless dongle set too! It’s faster than what Canon or Nikon has to offer

  28. Larry says:

    Peter, so true on having them pull out of the camera. It can be very frustrating, especially after a few great shots.

    I use this angled mini plug in my 5D – no more problems with pulling out! Not sure how to post a link – but here’s the on that I use – http://www.usbfirewire.com/leftangleminib.html

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