The biggest question by photographers interested in tethered photography is ‘How exactly do I start tethering?’ Well, this article was written for you! Here are 5 simple steps that can get you tethering in no time.
Step 1: You need a screen to send your images
In order to start shooting tethered, you need to decide where to send your images – laptop/computer, iPad/Tablet, direct to a monitor. The most common tether connection is from camera to a computer. You’ll want to ensure your computer has a port for connecting a tether cable. Most tethering takes place through a USB cable, so if you have a USB port, you’re equipped to connect your tethering cable. Whether it is a laptop or desktop, PC or Mac – they all will need a minimum of 2GB of RAM to tether. The more RAM and better processor, the faster the tether within your software.
Step 2: Ensure your camera is able to tether
Most DSLR cameras have an output port (USB, FireWire, HDMI, etc) that enables image transfer, but not all are optimized for tethering. Be sure you confirm your camera’s tethering options by reviewing your manual. Depending on what tethering software you are interested in, ensure your camera is supported by your tethering software.
Step 3: Choose your tethering software
In order for the images to be received by your computer, you’ll need a software that supports tethered capture. There are many software options available – including the utility software that comes with many cameras. There are quite a few options ranging from free up to about $300 – and all with varying levels of functionality. You can find a quick rundown on tethering software options available here.
Step 4: Purchase Tethering Cable or Wireless Transmitter
You have the option to either tether by cable or tether wirelessly. This is purely a photographers preference and often depends on your subject, location, capture and processing needs. Cabled tethering is the fastest, most secure and reliable option and enables RAW image transfer, camera control, RAID back up and efficient processing – among other benefits. Wireless tethering offers instant transfer to iPads and tablets in addition to computers and gives photographers fluid mobility, image sharing, zoom and camera control among other benefits – depending on the wireless transmitter of choice.
If you prefer traditional tethering, you’ll need to confirm which cable is right for your camera and computer. Tether Tools offers cable options for most DSLR and Medium Format cameras in 15 foot lengths, which is usually sufficient for most tethered photo sessions. Check out the Camera Compatibility Guide for TetherPro Cables to confirm which cable is right for your gear. If distances of longer than 15 feet are needed, TetherPro Active Extension cables are ideal for daisy chaining up to 80 feet of cabling distance.* Most TetherPro cables come in either black or high-visibility orange.
*Please note: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 cables do not have the same daisy chain abilities. USB 2.0 can daisy chain out to 80 feet, while the USB 3.0 cables can only daisy chain out to 32 feet.
*For more Specs & Compatibility information, please visit our USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 posts for specifics.
If you decide you would like to tether to your Mac, PC, iPad/iPhone or Android, CamRanger is a great option to consider. The CamRanger is a wireless transmitter that sends the photos you take directly to your iOS, Mac, PC or Droid. The device can be mounted to the top of your camera, or on a camera strap for easy transport. Wireless cards such as Eye.fi are also nice options depending on your needs, wireless network access and distance from your device. These options are more accessible than cameras with built-in WiFi and they are camera agnostic so they’ll work (with limitations) with multiple cameras. (See Wireless Tethering for options and compatibility specs)
Step 5: Setup your Tethering Workspace
Whether you are setting up for an on-location shoot or designing a studio workspace, the same rules still apply. It is important to know what you need for your workspace to function efficiently during your tethered photography shoot. There is nothing worse than tripping over cables, mis-placing backup hard drives and gear that is not secured and could get damaged during the inevitable flow of your shoot.
Depending on your requirements for a tethered workstation, there are many things to consider:
How will I conveniently position the laptop or computer I use for tethering?
Where do I put my backup devices and external hard drives?
Will there be room for my mouse, trackpad or Wacom tablet?
How will I keep my cables safe and ensure my gear is safe while shooting?
Here is our suggested set up for building the ideal tethered workflow set-up:
The Tether Tools Tether Table is a lightweight solution designed to mount your laptop on an tripod or studio stand. Tether Tables are ideal when shooting on location, yet solid and sturdy enough for studio shooting as well. Finished in both brushed silver and non-reflective black, Tether Tables are designed to stand up to daily use and come with a Lifetime Warranty.
There are many sizes available. So depending on which laptop size you require or if you choose to use a desktop/iMac size, there are tables to fit every computer. Here is a list:
- Aero Master (22″ x 16″)
- Aero Standard (18″ x 16″)
- Aero Traveler (16″ x 14″)
- Aero MacBook Pro 17″ (17.5″ x 11.5″)
- Aero MacBook Pro 15″ (16.25″ x 10.82″)
- Aero MacBook Pro 13″ (14.75″ x 10″)
- Aero iMac (22″ x 16″)
Tether Tools also has the option to ‘Custom Design Your Tether Table‘. If the above sizes do not fit the measurements you require, you can have one custom built.
**Quick Tip: Keep your laptop secured to your Tether Table with a SecureStrap which attaches to each side of the table and can be tightened to the size of your laptop.
XDC Compartment for Backup Device
Backing up your images while you tether is a good way to ensure you always have a back up copy. If you require a backup device or hard drive, be sure to check out the XDC Compartments for the Aero Table. They come in both Solo as well a Duo sizes, making them perfect for one or two backup drives. Each of these compartments also come in either brushed silver or non-reflective black (to match your table).
Peel & Place MousePad
If you would like to have your mouse while at your workstation, Tether Tools has a Peel & Place MousePad. Ultra thin at .015″(.38mm), the mouse pad is durable and sticks directly on a Tether Table. It can easily be repositioned or removed without leaving a sticky residue.
You can eliminate any risk of damage to cable ports on your camera and computer by using one of the many JerkStopper Cable Management devices to help keep everything safe and secure. When tethering, you’ll want to have a JerkStopper Camera Support connected to the camera end of your cable to ensure the cable stays connected at all times during your tethering session. Whatever camera or cable you use – you’ll want to use a JerkStopper with it. It’s not too expensive and it can keep you from losing important shots if the connection is lost and can help prevent damage to your camera’s port.
For the external drive option, you will want to keep those cables completely secure making sure no connection is dropped during transfer. The inexpensive JerkStopper Flat Mount Support 3-Pack is ideal for keeping cables up and out of the way as well as eliminating stress on the cable connection – which reduces the chance of losing your connection.
If you decide to utilize a laptop for your tethered workstation, you may wonder where to mount your power cord. Rather than allowing the power brick and cord to dangle from your tethered workstation, keep it secure with a StrapMoore and/or StrapMoore Extender.
By wrapping the StrapMoore around your stand or tripod, you are able to take any tension or cable stress from your power supply to your laptop. This keeps your workstation tidy and protects your laptops power source as well.
**Quick Tip: The StrapMoore is also a great tool to have on any set eliminating the need for gaffer tape to secure cables, mics, speedlites or other electronic devices.
Now you have the basics to begin tethering as well as build yourself a safe and efficient workstation. Always keep in mind when setting up your workstation, it must fit your workflow and save you time – because in the end, time is money and you are worth it!