I often get asked about my shooting process, on-site and explain that I shoot tethered. For new clients, the initial question is usually: “What does that mean”? I am writing this article in the hopes of explaining what it means to shoot tethered, and why I adapted it into my shooting practice.
What is Shooting Tethered?
Tethered (or “tied” in its more literal definition) is the practice of attaching the camera to a computer to control the camera and review the shots. Up until the last few years, this was typically done on-site by attaching the camera to a laptop via a cable. More recently, with the development of newer technology, we are able to tether wirelessly to both a laptop or an iPad. Currently, I shoot wirelessly tethered. By attaching a little “box” to the camera, it allows me to control my camera, use live view to see what the camera sees, and review my images, all wireless though an iPad Pro 12.9”, which is my current setup.
Why Shoot Tethered?
One of the main reasons I decided to take a tethered shooting approach is the collaboration with my clients. I always tell my clients that the shoot needs to be a collaboration. When my clients hire me, they are putting their trust in me that I am able to deliver them a tangible 2D version of their 3D vision. While I might see things slightly different on a project, it’s the collaboration that happens on-site that enables us to create the best possible images. By allowing the client to see what the camera is seeing, and review the images as we are taking them, it really goes a long way in bringing that vision to life.
3” LCD Screen versus 13” iPad Pro
When I’m looking through the viewfinder, or even the 3” LCD display on the back of the camera, I am viewing quite a small image. Bringing that image to a 13” iPad Pro, on a Retina display, really allows us to see the intricacies of the image. The added resolution of the iPad helps us see the minor details in a shot (focus, exposure, color accuracy, etc.) and adjust accordingly. If we were only using the 3” LCD screen to make composition, lighting and staging adjustments we would most likely notice a lot of errors when it’s too late..
Shooting tethered offers immediate satisfaction to both myself and my client. Seeing what the concept of the image looks like while were shooting gives us some assurances that we are heading in the right direction. When I started my career, back in the film days, we would take a shot, and need to wait a few days for the lab to process the film and print contact sheets. Taking advantage of modern technology, the immediate results allows us to produce better work, more efficiently.
Staging – Working Efficiently
More often then not, we need to stage for the shot versus staging for how the room looks when you walk into it. Bring that 3D space into a 2D medium changes the perspective on how things are viewed. For instance, a chair might look perfect when viewed in the room, but might need to be moved 3” to the left for the shot. When not shooting tethered, I would run to the chair, move it slightly, run back to camera to check it, back to chair to move a little more, and this cycle can go on for a few minutes. By being able to bring my iPad Pro with me to the chair, I can move it until it’s in the perfect position by viewing my changes in real time, allowing me to work quicker and more efficiently. When I work quicker and more efficiently, you get more final images!
It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally, during shoot day, while we are collaborating on an image, I might hear something like “can this be removed in photoshop” or something of the sort. Having the images on the screen as we shoot, allows me to quickly take that image, bring it into Photoshop and see our options in regards to post-production on an image. This allows us to make a decision on-site if something need to be fixed in the scene accordingly.
Above are the main reasons I decided to shoot tethered but the list does go on. Whether you hire me for a project, or go a different route, hiring a photographer that shoots tethered should be an essential part of your photographer decision making process. Ultimately, you will get better looking images in less time, a win-win for everyone!!