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Shooting Tethered in Lightroom

One of the fantastic things about Lightroom is the way it can streamline a photographer’s workflow. Lightroom allows the creating of presets and applying them over a complete shoot, even applying those presets on import ( see my previous tutorial). These can save hours of boring, time consuming, repetitive post production that benefits neither the client or the photographer.

Recently I had to shoot a series of product shots for a client, each shot would be set up exactly the same and would require the same post processing. Now using presets I could shoot all of the images, import them into Lightroom and apply a preset to all of the images, but the finished images could not be reviewed until the shoot was complete. This might mean going back and reshooting which would be time consuming and expensive.

Shooting Tethered

A better way would be to shoot tethered in Lightroom. For those that don’t know, shooting tethered is having your computer (and Lightroom) connected directly to your camera during the shoot. No more looking at the back of the camera and trying to figure out if the images are in focus, no more massive upload at the end of a shoot, and much less guesswork as to the look of the final image.

Most DLSR’s today have the ability to shoot tethered using a simple USB cable connected to both the camera and your computer. In my example I had my camera set up on a tripod directly above my studio setup and a USB cable connecting the camera to my laptop & Lightroom.

Setting up Lightroom for shooting tethered

Start tethering

Start tethering

First step to setting up a tethered shoot (after connecting the USB & switching on the camera) is to Start Tethered Capture as seen in the menu structure above. NB! I am using LR4 Beta in this example but the process is exactly the same in Lightroom 3.

Clicking the Start Tethered Capture menu brings up the setup box.

Tethered Setup

Tethered Setup

The details here will be very familiar to those used to importing into Lightroom.. You can set a shoot or Session Name, define how the filename will be created, set the location for the images to be uploaded. It is even possible to apply metadata and keywords as you would expect in the normal import procedure.

Once you have these set to your requirements and click OK, Lightroom will bring up the following box.

Tethered Control Panel

Tethered Control Panel

This is your control panel for shooting tethered. A couple of things to note before I explain what is shown above.

1) to hide or show this panel during a tethered shoot use the Cmd (or CTRL for PC) T

2) if Lightroom does not find your camera, check that the camera has not gone into sleep mode by half pressing the shutter

Anyway, hopefully at this point you will see something similar to the box above.. Most of information in the panel is for review only as you cannot change the shutter speed, ISO etc from this panel. That will require manual changes on the camera itself.

In this example my camera is set to 1/100s, f/16, 100 ISO and a white balance of Auto. I have also applied a preset which applied lens correction and a camera specific neutral calibration.

Now the fun bit, Press the button that the blue arrow points at.. your camera should fire a shot. I tend to review my images as they come in using the Loupe view (E) in Lightroom

Dark image

Dark image

Oops! something doesn’t look right here.. The image is way too dark, which is confirmed in the Histogram (see blue arrow). This is simply a case of finding the right settings for the first image.

Camera settings

Camera settings

I adjusted my camera settings to allow more light into the camera, I clicked the Shutter button on the tethered control panel to shoot an image. I can see the results look better both in the image and the histogram.

NB! you can still use the shutter button on the camera, but I prefer using the tethered panel as this does not introduce any shake to the camera body.

This image is still not how I want it to appear when finished.. we now need to apply our post production.

Edit in the Develop Module

Edit in the Develop Module

at this stage I hide the tethered panel using Cmd T ( or CTRL T for PC)

Moving into the Develop Module (D) I edit the image to blow out the background and to add texture and detail to the subject. At this stage, be aware that these changes will be applied to all of your coming shoot, so I would not recommend local adjustments.

Once you are happy with the edit..

Create preset

Create preset

.. create a new preset using the Add New Preset button in the left hand panel of the Develop Module.

New Preset

New Preset

I chose the settings to apply so that my edit AND the previous import settings are included (Lens Corrections/Calibration) and clicked Create.

Going back to the Loupe view (E) and pressing Cmd T (CTRL T on PC) to reveal the tethered panel..

Change the preset

Change the preset

With the panel now showing, I click on the Develop Settings and choose my new preset – Masks

Clicking the Shutter button on the panel fires another shot of my mask, Lightroom brings the images into the loupe view and applies the new preset.. this should look identical to my previous image including the post production.

At this point, it is a case of simply placing each mask in the studio and pressing the shutter button on the tethered panel. Each image will be shot, imported, preset applied and displayed in the loupe view on your Lightroom screen.

The complete shoot

The complete shoot

Using this method, you and the client can see a nearly instant edited image as the shoot progresses. Allowing you to correct any problems as you go. The image above, shows the shoots progression from the first underexposed image to the final ‘edited on import’ shots that are ready for the client.

I hope you have found this tutorial both helpful and understandable and as always please feel free to ask questions or comment below.

About Scot Baston (31 Articles)
Scot Baston is a Commercial & Wedding Photographer that lives on the south coast of Devon, that inspires much of his work. Whether it the technical or emotive sides, Photography is a passion that continues to challenge and inspire.

10 Comments on Shooting Tethered in Lightroom

  1. How do you stop the usb lead falling out of the 5D?

  2. Hi Roger,

    I can honestly say I’ve never had a problem with the usb cable falling out of my 5D, but it maybe worth you looking at Tethertools.com


    I mainly shoot tethered from a tripod so that is probably why I don’t get the problem



  3. Jason flaugh // 11/02/2012 at 5:00 pm //

    interesting artwork

  4. I’m not a professional photographer but shooting tethered in Lightroom sounds like a very time-saving and money-saving method that yields instant results without reshoots.

  5. Thanks for sharing learnt something new today!!

  6. Great Info! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I’m trying to find out if you can view the images on the back of the camera as well as on the laptop.

  8. Thanks so much for such a clear description of this preset process. I am looking forward to giving it a try, after doing this manually for too long.

  9. So clear and helpful! Thank you

  10. Hi Scot,

    Thanks so much for the article, I found it very helpful. I have a question though. Is it possible to apply a crop to all the photos as well as a preset?. I want to shoot headshots/portraits and want to apply a 8×10 crop to all incoming shots whilst tethered.



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