Tether 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!