11 Feb 2012

Shooting a multi-portrait session in tethered mode - the impressions

Today I was shooting another multi-portrait session of several dozens of children (from age 0.6 to 6-7).
The setup I used was quite similar to the one I used earlier and described here. For today's session I decided to introduce a new element: a laptop connected to the camera, so I was able shoot in so-called tethered mode.
This way of shooting is adviced by a lot recognized studio photographers. Obviously it gives one clear advantage, one can judge the quality of a picture taken much better than on camera LCD. But I found out that there more advantages. More on that later, now some technical stuff.

Iteration one:
Tethered mode in Lightroom is not supported for Nikon D80. So in the first approach I have installed an "intermediate" application called Camera Control from DYIPhotoBits. It's free and it recognizes my Nikon D80, so the rest was easy: I configured the destination directory of Camera Control as a directory to be monitored by Ligthroom (In Lightroom choose File->Auto Import->Auto Import Settings... and then File->Enable Auto Import to start monitoring).
Then connect the camera via USB to the laptop (don't forget to set the USB port in your camera to the PTP mode). From now on, whenever a picture is taken, it gets saved by Camera Control, recognized by Lightroom and imported to the Lightroom catalog. There is one drawback of this approach: the latency time between shooting and getting a picture in Lightroom. So it was working, but is was not smooth (in my case it took 10-11 seconds from the shot to the file available in Lightroom for preview. Go to iteration 2

Iteration two:
The Camera Control Pro from Nikon is the application that was tested as second. For Nikon 80 version 2.0 didn't work, so after installation the immediate update to 2.8 was required. Luckily the trial version works for 30 days, so I could use it for the session. The application performance was a way better comparing to the solution from iteration one (the time from shutter release to having image available on the laptop was 2-3 sec). So this was chosen as a solution for the session

Advantages of tethered mode
Indeed, looking at a photo on a 15'' screen enables much better quality control than LCD. But there is more, much more. It gives you a possibility to interact nicely with the customer (in this case parents of the photographed children). And that is win-win situation: in my case parents could easily pick up the photos they liked, I could listen to their comments and learn what they actually like. Plus, I was able to take notes about extra wishes (like required number of prints) just in place.

Learnings and practical tips:

  1. Tethered mode is a way to go for studio sessions. I am fully convinced.
  2. Remember to secure the USB cable, especially in presence of small children. They really don't care about your stuff. So I fastened 30-40 cm of the cable to the floor with gaffer tape, so the chance of suddenly pulling it from the laptop (or dropping the laptop on the groud) by accidental stumble was minimized
  3. I was using 5m long USB cable which was enough and gave enough flexibility.