Tethering Your DSLR to Adobe Lightroom

tethered2.jpgTether your DSLR camera to your notebook for live shoots in Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom

A lot of photographers have had two burning questions on their minds. 1) Can I tether my digital SLR camera to my notebook? and 2) Can I get it working with Lightroom? We are pleased to say a resounding YES to both of those questions! Here’s how we accomplished tethering a Pentax K10D to our Macbook running Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.4.

First off, why would you want to tether your digital camera for a shoot? Tethered shooting (with Lightroom) offers several advantages, aside from the obvious one of being able to more accurately preview your shots on the fly on your notebook’s display. You may be shooting with a client or art director, who’ll be able to see the shots as they are taken, offering additional creative advantages. Additionally, not only can you more accurately check image sharpness, exposure, and such; Lightroom also can apply processing presets on the fly, letting you preview and inspire your creativity during a shoot.

1) Setting up Lightroom for tethering is quite simple, but the first step is to load up your camera’s tethering software. Most brands of digital SLR cameras either come with this, or their manufacturer’s have it available for download from their site. In our case, we were using the Pentax Remote Assistant (V.3) software, available for free download from Pentax.com. For Canon users, you’ll want to install EOS Viewer (or maybe Capture), and Nikon users must purchase the Nikon Camera Control Pro software. Once you have installed your camera’s remote capture software, the next step will be to set up Lightroom.

2) The next step is to create a “Watched Folder” within Lightroom, which your images will automatically be saved into as they are shot on the fly. To do this, fire up Lightroom and navigate to the menu: File > Auto Import > Auto Import Settings… If you do a lot of tethered shoots, I would recommend setting up a new watched folder for each shoot, since you can automatically apply metatags, keywords, and presets as the images are imported on the fly. The following window will appear and you can input the settings as follows. (Shown here is the PC Version, Mac has the same options. Click to see larger version.)


The first option is to select a “Watched Folder” where new images will automatically be saved into, as you shoot them. Create a new folder, and name it to your liking. The “Destination Folder” is where Lightroom will move the images into, once they have been imported from your camera into Lightroom. This is where Lightroom will save your images. Further down the dialog box, there are other options such as file naming, metadata, keywords, and preset Develop settings. For your first time, you can leave those options as set to their defaults, but during live shoots you may wish to alter these to suit your needs.

3) The next step, now that your watched folder has been set up, is to turn on the Auto Import feature in Lightroom, simply by going to the menu: File > Auto Import > Enable Auto Import

4) Next, you’ll want to connect your camera to your computer using your camera’s supplied USB cable. Now you can fire up your camera’s tethering software. Before we begin shooting, we need to point the camera’s tethering software to save our shots into the folder which Lightroom is watching. You guessed it, the “Watched Folder” that you created back in step 2. Every manufacturer’s software is slightly different, so just navigate to your software’s Preferences, Options, or Download Options. For the Pentax K10D we set the download folder to our “Watched Folder” and changed the save option to “Auto Save” to avoid being prompted to save each image in the “Single Shot” mode.

5) We’re now ready to take a test shot! Take a photo, and wait a few seconds for the image to work its way through your camera, out the USB cable, into your computer, and finally into Lightroom. Large files from high resolution cameras will obviously take a few seconds to complete. You should now notice the image appear in Lightroom’s Library module!

6) The first thing you’ll see is that the image you just shot is showing the image’s thumbnail preview in Lightroom. You’ll want to set up Lightroom to show you the largest possible view, otherwise you’ll have to click each individual thumbnail to see your image, and the whole purpose of shooting tethered is lost.

To setup Lightroom to show the full image preview, in the Library Module on the upper left side in the Navigator section, click on “Fit.” Next, using the keyboard shortcuts, you can click F F to bring Lightroom into full-screen mode, and then click L or L L to dim the lights.

You’re now set for your tethered shoot in Lightroom! One handy piece of equipment to have for tethered shooting is a USB extension cable, to allow greater freedom of movement away from your laptop. Now you know how to shoot tethered – Have fun, and Happy Photographing!

About the author

Dave Seeram is the Editor of PhotographyBB Magazine, photographer, Canucks fan, Lostie,  fanboy, Dad, blogger, entrepreneur, and part-time superhero. Dave is the owner of this blog, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the PhotographyBB Magazine and CLARITY: PHOTOGRAPHY BEYOND THE CAMERA
15 Responses
  1. Hi Paolo,

    I haven’t tried it in previous versions of Lightroom, but I believe it should work in exactly the same way, as you can still set up watched folders in previous versions. The version 1.4 update is free for any Lightroom owners, and has a few fixes and new features worth upgrading for in any case!

    Great question!


  2. brandon

    does it work with older cameras? i have a digital rebel 300d and i can’t find that canon download you mentioned anywhere.

  3. Paolo

    other little question: I’ve a EOS 400D but i can’t find for it the software listed in your point 1.

    where can I find a similar software to be able to tethering my camera?

  4. We have a Pentax K10D and are trying to shoot into Lightroom via Pentax Remote Assitant as your blog suggests. The G3 mac with 10.5 system connects to the camera but Pentax Remote Assitant does not see it. We have upgraded the camera and remote software. Any ideas!

  5. Bob

    I’ve tried to set up my tethering with Pentax K-10D on my HP Laptop, have downloaded all nessesary software and firmware but when I plug in to USB just the window come’s up asking where I want to transfer my pic”s. In my top LCD window of my camera just the letter;s PC come on. Have no camera functions. The program Pentax Remote loaded into my browsers, Firmware 1.30 loaded into camera. Any suggestions. Really need help.


  6. Rod

    Thanks I now have my K10D tethered to my laptop


    1. Downloaded and installed the latest remote assistant V3 from Pentax (supplied camera software was needed to be installed first)
    2. Setup Lightroom to auto import
    The main issue that I found was that lightroom needed an empty folder to point to.. my documentspentax1 in my case
    3. Connected and turned on
    4. took an image or 2 (raw)
    5. waited 1 – 2 seconds till lightroom had auto opened / imported
    6. Had to manually move to next photo on the keyboard
    7. File had been imported and moved to the import folder

    Happy thanks



  7. Cindy

    Can this technique be used with a Pentax Km? If so, how the heck do you get it to work…..I installed the Pentax Remote 3 and my camera does nothing! HELP!

  8. Andrew Turner

    This looks really good. I’m interested in trying this with my Pentax K10 and Mac PB as I would really appreciate the chance to see shots on a larger screen before packing up and moving on to the next location. However – some questions (1) anyone have any experience of doing this with Adobe Bridge CS3 instead of Lightroom, (2) or for that matter with Aperture 2.1.4?. (3) It’s possibly too early to tell of course, but I suppose it would be too much to find a way to do it with iPad to save toting a PB on a shoot? – that would be really useful.

  9. jairo

    I have a question why does it take longer to preview on lightroom than in the canon utility itself. is there any Idea so it load faster in my light room(3). thanks

  10. I have a D7000, too, and in Lightroom 4.1 the tethering process is about as simple as it could be. There is one dialog with some options for where to save files, etc. After that, each photo is automatically imported.

    Here’s the Adobe help page for tethering:

    And here’s a list of the supported cameras:

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