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Tethered Shooting with Olympus E-System DSLRs on a Mac

June 6th, 2010 8 comments

Sparkling

Model Rhi - Image Captured with Tethering



Tethered Shooting

Tethered shooting involves connecting the camera to a computer during the shoot. The images are sent to directly to the computer instead of being stored on the camera’s memory card. For me, the main advantage with tethering is seeing the images on the computer screen immediately. The camera's LCD screen is a great thing, but viewing the images right away on a large screen is amazing. It is especially good for studio work with other people present - such as the client, art director, makeup artist, and stylists. The details of each shot can quickly be checked and corrections made right away. Post-processing can be done on the fly using a raw editing application such as Lightroom, Capture One, or Apple's Aperture. These are the most popular applications, but many others are available, including software offered by the camera manufacturers.

Hardware

I used an Olympus E-510 DSLR and a MacBook 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB RAM with a 10 foot USB extension cable.

Software

Lightroom 3 (in beta as of this post), Capture One and Aperture 3 all can be used for tethered shooting, but unfortunately none of them support Olympus E-System cameras. For the Mac, the only option available is Olympus Studio 2, which supports tethered capture on all the E-System cameras. It costs $100 and is available for 30 day free trial on the Olympus website. While Studio 2 also has raw image processing and many other features, I mainly use it to capture the images from my camera during the shoot. Instead, I use Lightroom 2.7 for raw image processing and image management.

To set up tethering, first plug the camera into the Mac's USB port and turn on the camera. Choose "Camera Control" from the menu on the camera's LCD screen. Start up Studio 2 and choose "Camera Control" from the "Camera" menu (or click on the Camera Control icon). Choose a location for saving the files and a file naming rule.

Lightroom 2.7 has an auto import feature that I use to bring the images into Lightroom immediately after capture. In the "File" menu, go to "Auto Import" and select "Enable Auto Import". Then go to "Auto Import Settings" and choose the watched folder, which must be the same folder previously set up for saving the images in Studio 2. Then set up the "Move to" location and any develop settings that you want to apply.

After this quick setup, everything is ready to go! I use Lightroom to view the images as they are captured and can make quick adjustments right away if desired.

Results

I wasn't sure how I would like being tethered during a shoot. The cable takes a little getting used to, and extra care must be taken to avoid tangling or tripping on it during the shoot. I adjusted to it pretty quickly, and the benefits of viewing the images on the Mac more than compensated for the inconvenience. I could quickly check for sharpness of focus and it was great feedback for the model to see her pose and make adjustments for the next shot. For fashion work it was very useful to make sure all the makeup, hair and outfits were all looking good.

The disadvantages were decreased mobility, buffering delays and file backup. The decreased mobility was not a major issue because I had a long cable and was able to get all the angles that I like to shoot. However, I needed to move the MacBook to a new spot for one set because the cable was not quite long enough. Not a big deal though.

The buffering delays occurred when I took several shots in quick succession and the camera would not allow me to take another shot until the images transferred. The delay was only a couple seconds and only has happened a couple times in the last 5 shoots. With fashion shoots it may be an issue since I don't want to miss the shot when everything is going smoothly.

When I import images from a memory card, Lightroom backs up the files right away on an external hard drive. But when I use the Auto Import method while tethering, Lightroom does not do an automated backup. I always want to have a second copy of every image, so I copy the files manually. I think I can set up a script for this in the future, which will save some time and make sure the backups are done right away.

Overall the benefits of tethering outweigh the disadvantages. Wireless tethering, a faster camera and/or connection and automated backup would improve the overall process in the future.

Do you have experience with tethering your camera? Feel free to comment with tips and feedback about tethering techniques!

Links:

Shoot tethered to control your camera from your Mac.

Olympus Studio 2

About the author

Lloyd Barnes is a Vancouver photographer available for commercial, editorial, fashion and fine art portrait photography.

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