Tethered Shooting With A Canon DSLR

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Tethered shooting is a useful photography tool. With the use of a USB or firewire cable run between the camera and a computer, the photographer can instantly review their shots on the computer screen. As the shutter is pressed, the images are recorded on the computer hard drive rather than the camera’s memory card. This capability comes in handy for many reasons:

  • To preview a larger image to ensure focus and composition.
  • To ensure lighting and exposure is correct.
  • To save the time it would take to download images from a camera.
  • To display photos in-process to the client or model.
  • To eliminate the concern of running out of memory card space.

There are a couple of con’s to mention about shooting tethered. First, it’s hard to be mobile with the computer and camera tethered together, which is why this option works best in a studio environment. Also, the photographer may rather have control over which shots the client sees, instead of putting them all on display, good or bad.

To set up tethered shooting, you’ll need your camera, a computer, the appropriate cable, and the appropriate software. For the purposes of this discussion I’ll be using my Canon 7D and the Canon EOS Utility software that came with the camera. Scott Kelby has written a great tutorial for Nikon and Lightroom users.

BEFORE using the provided cable to plug the camera into the computer’s USB port, it is important to load the EOS Utility software onto the computer (US customers can download the software for the 7D from here). Once you have done so, with the camera OFF, plug the cable (like this one) into the A/V Out Digital port on the camera, and plug the USB end into the computer. Then turn the computer on, and launch the EOS Utility software. From the menu, choose “Camera settings/Remote shooting”.

The Canon EOS Utility software main menu.

Click on the screen shot for a larger image.

The control panel that appears will look a lot like the menu display on the camera itself:

EOS Utility camera control panel

Click on the screen shot for a larger image.

You can set the tethering up in two different ways. The first way is to take photographs using the camera – all functionality is the same as if the camera were not tethered, with the exception of the fact that photos are being saved to the hard drive instead of the camera’s memory card. The software defaults to this functionality.

Click on the screen shot to see a larger view. I just took a picture of my monitor to show you what happens when the shutter button is pressed. A folder view is displayed, showing the destination folder where the new photo resides. A quick preview screen is also displayed, which can be made larger or smaller depending on your preferences for photo previewing.

The second way to shoot is to click on the “Live Preview” button on the control panel. This disables all of the functionality on the camera itself – you shoot from your PC by clicking the mouse on the shutter button on the control panel. Camera settings such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are also controlled by the camera. Auto-focus capabilities are turned off, making it necessary to manually focus the camera when composing the shot.

Again, click on the screen shot to see a larger view. What you see on the screen is live footage of whatever the camera lens is pointing at.

By clicking on “Preferences” from the control panel, you can change such settings as the destination folder to which the photos are sent, enable photos to be written to the memory card as well as to the hard drive, and several other options to augment functionality according to your preferences.

Header photo credit: “30D Tethered – Setup” by Matthew Keefe on Flickr Creative Commons.

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