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Cameras, Computers and Bondage

Now there’s a title that’s bound to bump this post up the google rankings somewhat. Sorry to disappoint those who’ve come here seeking nipple clamps and rubber pants, but I’m afraid the only bondage I’ve got to offer is a relatively simple technical post regarding shooting tethered into a computer!

Like lots of people who shoot in the studio, I often find it easier to shoot tethered straight into my Laptop. It means the images appear almost instantly on a big screen that my clients can look at, my assistant can also keep one eye on things to make sure all the lights are firing and other such technical gubbins. It also saves me time stopping to transfer to a card reader after every batch of shots, plus I can have Lightroom set up to apply develop settings to things as they appear on screen.

The downside to shooting tethered is that unless you shell out for one of the fairly pricey (but brilliant) wireless transmitters offered by Nikon or Canon, you’re stuck with a trailing cable across the studio floor. This means you can’t run around the studio like you used to. Added to this is the risk that someone could trip over the cable and hurt themselves, or far worse, tear out the cable in such a way that it destroys the ports on either your camera or laptop – possibly even both. I suppose you could gaffer tape the cable down, but then you’d be even more limited in where you can go.

I’ve got no way of preventing clumsiness, but I can at least offer a solution to save your sockets from destruction. I first spotted this idea a couple of years ago on Death to Film, a blog about digital workflow, which seems to have stopped posting helpful suggestions like this in the past year or so. All one does is attach a K-Clamp (or super-clamp if you call them that down your way) to the desk/trolley near the laptop, and weave the USB cable around that so that any sudden jerks are absorbed by the cable:

Bondage - shooting tethered
Then you replicate this at the camera end using a Manfrotto Camera Platform:

Simple really. It’s not as comfortable to hold as it was before, I’ll admit, but it does prevent you from having to shell out hundreds of quid on a new USB socket!

Backtracking a little if I may, I won’t offer you a comprehensive guide to shooting tethered, as the software changes pretty frequently, and other people are always better at this sort of thing, but I will at least offer some general advice. First off, get a USB extension cable – they’re not pricey, and the basic cable that came with your camera probably reaches about 6 inches, and is not much use. Next install all the necessary camera software on your computer. You’ll usually need all the relevant camera drivers, plus the software that allows you to download straight into the computer. With Canons this is free (hurrah!), but with Nikons you’ll have to spend over a hundred beans to get Camera Control Pro. This is not good, and I would like to register my dissatisfaction with Nikon at this point – I should not have to pay extra simply to have the option of shooting straight into the computer – SORT THIS OUT NOW!

Luckily for us Nikon users, a very wise chap over at DIY photo bits has provided a free script that allows Nikon users to download stuff gratis. I’ve tried it, and it works fine. Plus, having compared them both, although the £100+ Camera Control Pro offers more features, the free Script actually lets you keep images on the memory card as well – something that I can’t find the option for anywhere in CC Pro. Bah Humbug.

Now, having got over that hurdle, set your program to download to a specific folder on your hard drive. Then go and read Martin Evening’s guide to shooting tethered into Lightroom (presuming you’re using Lightroom – if not, good luck to you – I’ve no idea how anything else works, though I doubt it’s that different!) Follow all his instructions, and you should be up and running. Bear in mind that Lightroom will move the images you import into the folder you name – the raws won’t stay in the folder you’ve designated via the camera’s software. To have your own custom develop settings applied as images appear, simply develop an image as appropriate, save those settings as a preset, then go into the import dialogue and choose that preset. Now they should all appear with the appropriate white balance, garish colours and awful exposures you’ve intended.

As a general rule I’d suggest you don’t turn your camera off whilst shooting tethered. Some bits of software are cool with you doing this. Most aren’t, and you’ll usually find yourself having to re-establish connections again.

That’s it really. Now go back to your nipple clamps.

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