One of my favorite new features in Lightroom 3 is the built-in ability to shoot tethered (shooting directly from your camera into Lightroom), without using third-party software, which is what we’ve had to do until now. The advantages are: (1) you can see your images much bigger on your computer’s screen than on that tiny LCD on the back of the camera, so you’ll make better images; and (2) don’t have to import after the shoot—the images are already there. Warning: Once you try this, you’ll never want to shoot any other way.
The first step is to connect your camera to your computer using that little USB cable that came with your camera. (Don’t worry, it’s probably still in the box your camera came in, along with your manual and some other weird cables that come with digital cameras. So, go look there for it.) Go ahead and connect your camera now. In the studio, and on location, I use the tethered setup you see here (which I learned about from world-famous photographer Joe McNally). The bar is the Manfrotto 131DDB Tripod Accessory Arm, with a Gitzo G-065 monitor platform attached.
Now go under Lightroom’s File menu, under Tethered Capture, and choose Start Tethered Capture. This brings up the dialog you see here, in the Import Window where you enter pretty much the same info as you would (you type in the name of your shoot at the top in the Session Name field, and you choose whether you want the images to have a custom name or not. You also choose where on your hard drive you want these images saved to, and if you want any metadata or keywords added—just like usual). However, there is one important feature here that’s different—the Segment Photos By Shots checkbox (shown circled in red here)—which can be incredibly handy when you’re shooting tethered (as you’ll see).
The Segment Photos By Shots feature lets you organize your tethered shots as you go. For example, let’s say you’re doing a fashion shoot, and your subject changes outfits. You’ll be able to separate each of these different looks into different folders by clicking the Shot Name (this will make more sense in a moment). Try it out by turning on the Segment Photos By Shot checkbox. When you do this, a naming dialog appears (shown here), where you can type in a descriptive name for the first shoot of your session.
When you click OK, the Tethered Capture window appears (seen here), and if Lightroom sees your camera, you’ll see your camera model’s name appear on the left (if you have more than one camera connected, you can choose which camera you want to use by clicking on the camera’s name and choosing from the pop-up menu). If Lightroom doesn’t see your camera, it’ll read “No Camera Detected,” in which case you need to make sure your USB cable is connected correctly, and that Lightroom supports your camera’s make and model. To the right of the camera’s model, you’ll see the camera’s current settings, including f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO. To the right of that, you have the option of applying a Develop module preset (see Chapter 4 for more on those, but for now just leave it set at None).
The round button on the right side of the Tethered Capture window is actually a shutter button, and if you click on it, it’ll take a photo just as if you were pressing the shutter button on the camera itself (pretty slick). When you take a shot now, in just a few moments, the image will appear in Lightroom. The image doesn’t appear quite as fast in Lightroom as it does on the back of the camera, because you’re actually transferring the entire file from the camera to the computer over that USB cable (or a wireless transmitter, if you have one connected to your camera), so it takes a second or two. Also, if you shoot in JPEG mode, the file sizes are much smaller, so your images will appear in Lightroom much faster than RAW images. Here is a set of images taken during a tethered shoot, but the problem is if you view them in the Library module’s Grid view like this, they’re not much bigger than the LCD on the back of your camera.
Note: Canon and Nikon react to tethering differently. For example, if you shoot Canon, and you have a memory card in the camera while shooting tethered, it writes the images to your hard drive and the memory card, but Nikon’s write only to your hard drive.
Of course, the big advantage of shooting tethered is seeing your images really large (you can check the lighting, focus, and overall result much easier at these larger sizes, and clients love it when you shoot tethered when they’re in the studio, because they can see how it’s going without looking over your shoulder and squinting to see a tiny screen). So, double-click on any of the images to jump up to Loupe view (as shown here), where you get a much bigger view as your images appear in Lightroom. (Note: If you do want to shoot in Grid view, and just make your thumbnails really big, then you’ll probably want to go to the toolbar and, to the left of Sort Order, click on the A–wZ button, so your most recent shot always appears at the top of the grid.
Now let’s put that Segment Photos By Shot feature to use. Let’s say you finish this round of shots with your subject wearing blue earrings, and in the next set, your subject will be wearing a hat. Just click directly on the word “Blue Earrings” in the Tethered Capture window (or press Command-Shift-T [PC: Ctrl-Shift-T]) and the Shot Name dialog appears. Give this new set of shots a name (I named mine “Black Hat”) and then go back to shooting. Now these images will appear in their own separate folders, but all within my main Studio Session 106 folder.
When I’m shooting tethered (which I always do when I’m in the studio, and as often as I can on location), rather than looking at the Library module’s Loupe view, I switch to the Develop module, so if I need to make a quick tweak to anything, I’m already in the right place. Also when shooting tethered, my goal is to make the image as big as possible onscreen, so I hide Lightroom’s panels by pressing Shift-Tab, which enlarges the size of your image to take up nearly the whole screen. Then lastly, I press the letter L twice to enter Lights Out mode, so all I see is the full-screen-sized image centered on a black background, with no distractions (as shown here). If I want to adjust something, I press L twice, then Shift-Tab to get the panels back.