Tethered shooting with a Canon camera

Why should you?

If you are shooting portraits or architecture, it can be very useful to be able to view the images on a larger screen then that on the back of your camera: You can better judge focus, expression, exposure and composition for instance. Not only because the screen is bigger and of better quality (not to mention calibrated!), but also because the software you use might have some visual aids (clipping warning, grid, 100% view, stuff like that)

What do you need

Obviously a camera and the proper cable: USB for most consumer models and the Eos 1D(s)3, Firewire for the Canon 1D(2) and 1D(s)Mk2(n).
Apart from that, you’ll need some software to connect the camera to the computer and some kind of viewer or raw converter.

The software

There are a few options: Capture One Pro is highly regarded, and does all in one package, but the price is fairly steep.
Then there’s Bibble Pro. Quite a bit cheaper and supports more (older) cameras then C1Pro. Both of these support Nikon and Canon. Bibble also supports other brands. Both are available for Windows and OSX, Bibble also for Linux. Neither allow remote control of the camera, but Capture one allows you to fire the shutter remotely.

Free

Lucky for us that Canon also offers a free solution: Eos Utility. It came on the disk with your camera. If it didn’t, or you lost the disk, you can download it, following the instructions here.
Once installed, you’ll also need a viewer. I prefer to use DPP on my laptop, since that’s a dinosaur an old Powerbook G4 with a 12″ screen. Others prefer to use Lightroom. I’ll explain how to use both:

Step by step

First, start Eos Utility and go to the preferences: (Do this before connecting the camera. On my Mac (OSX 10.4.11) at least, it won’t complete start up, and needs to be force-quit otherwise)
Since I use DPP mostly for tethered shooting, I set up my Folder and filenames to be meaningful here. If you use Lightroom, you can skip this name customization.
Eos Utility Prefs: Destination Folder

The name is pretty self-explanatory I think. I use 3 lines for Year/Month/Date, since the preset “Shooting day” will add a few underscores I don’t want.
Eos Utility Prefs: Destination Folder

Eos Utility Prefs: File naming

Again, pretty obvious naming scheme: My initials, the date and a short description.
Eos Utility Prefs: File naming

Then set DPP as Linked Software.

Eos Utility Prefs: Linked Software: DPP

Now for the shooting

Exit the prefs. That get’s you back to the main window. Choose “Camera Settings / Remote Shooting”

Eos Utility Main window

You get this: Note that, unlike other tethering software, Eos Utility gives you complete control over the camera. Very, very nice if the camera is at a position where you can hardly reach it (high on a tripod for instance).

Eos Utility Camera Settings

Take a shot. If the “quick preview” window opens, click it away, since you won’t be needing that. It will stay gone as long as you don’t restart Eos Utility.
The image will now automatically open in DPP, in thumbnail view.

DPP opens like this: Main Window (thumbnails)

That’s not my preferred way of working. So I hit Cmd+A (select all) and Cmd+right arrow (open in edit image window; no shortcut for it on PC). That gives me this:

DPP: Edit Image Window

Cmd+T gets rid of the tools. All consecutive images will open in the edit image window now. At whatever zoom factor you choose.
You’re all set. So shoot away.

DPP: Edit Image Window, after a few shots

Lightroom

In Lightroom it’s a bit more complicated different.
Set everything the same in Eos Utility, except of course the linked software. As said, you also don’t need to worry about folder naming, because that is taken care of in Lightroom:

Eos Utility Prefs: Linked Software: None

Then open Lightroom. It will open with the images you last edited / imported. Enable Auto Import, and set up a watched folder like this, in the very logically named “Auto Import Settings”:

Lightroom: Set Auto Import

Lightroom: Set up watched folder

Note that your images will get moved (not copied) by LightRoom into the folder you specify here. No way around it, so the whole naming scheme for folders in Eos Utility is kinda redundant in this case. I’d strongly recommend using a meaningful foldername. You can use either LR or Eos Utility to manage the filenames, depending on what you prefer.

Take a shot:

Lightroom: First shot

Note the image in the background is still the old image. If after the shot you get “No Photo Selected”, click a thumbnail in LR.
That’s it. Lightroom will now keep an eye on that folder, and import every image that lands in there. A bit slower on my laptop then DPP, but it works okay.

Lightroom: First shot

The drawbacks

Tethered shooting causes the battery of your camera to drain faster. With some cameras (the 1D comes to mind) that’s not something you desire…
Obviously, you also need to lug a laptop with you, but IMO that’s well worth it.
Lastly: Eos Utility does not like it when the camera goes to sleep, or is disconnected: It’ll crash. No idea why it’s buggy that way, probably because it’s free.

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18 Responses to “Tethered shooting with a Canon camera”

  1. John Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 17:06

    Hi,
    I want to buy a camera for a scientific purpose. Do you know which of canon cameras have “tethered shooting” property?
    thanks.

  2. René Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 17:23

    Hi John!
    Just about all of the Canon DSLRs do tethered shooting, depending on the software you use. You will probably need the proper drivers on Windows. This might be problematic if you’re running a 64bit windows OS as far as I know…
    Here’s a list of cameras supported by Bibble pro.
    I’m on a Mac, and I have shot tethered with my 1D using the Canon software..

  3. John Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 18:05

    Hi René,

    sorry but i’m just a beginner in this field so i’m not clear yet.i need to control camera shooting from computer, for example i clik on a button and 100 sequential images will be taken by a predetermined time step.i don’t need very high resolutions.and a very good macro mode is essential.and the most important is the camera price!the lowest possible camera price!
    So i need to know which camera model is the best choice for me?

  4. John Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 18:08

    and thank you for your help.thank you very much.

  5. René Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 18:24

    Don’t know about the “100 sequential images”. Might be some software does just that, might be you need additional software or something like the Canon remote with timer. (Canon TC80N3) (not sure if it will fit the camera: You might need a different connector, depending on camera).
    As for “what camera?” A Canon 500D or 1000D with a good Macro lens (like the EF-s 60mm Macro) will do fine. The lens will probably cost more then the camera.
    If you are looking for info on Canon cameras, have a look at POTN.

  6. John Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 18:45

    thanks.
    POTN link doesn’t work!It says “Not Found”.

  7. René Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 18:52

    Ooops. My bad. Works now.

  8. john Says:
    January 30th, 2010 at 16:29

    Anyone know if it is possible to shoot tethered with two cameras in EOS Utility and auto upload in LR?

    thanks!

  9. René Says:
    January 30th, 2010 at 20:33

    Not tethered as far as I know.
    However, you might be able to pull it off using a WiFi transmitter using ftp.

    Link 1
    Link 2

  10. ImagEsky (Ed Siu) Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 08:58

    Shoot tethered in lightroom: http://www.getcolormanaged.com/general/tether/

  11. Austin's Imaging Blog » SLR cameras for Microscopy Says:
    July 16th, 2010 at 19:14

    […] Control Software for your camera (Nikon uses software that you have to buy separately, canon software is included with the camera). […]

  12. René Says:
    August 27th, 2010 at 11:05

    Hi Alexander!

    Wireless might be nice in some cases, but I like the K.I.S.S. principle… So if I don’t need wireless, I prefer to use a wire.
    For one thing it’s cheaper. For another it’s one less thing to setup that could go wrong.

    Took me a while to approve your comment, since it came across quite spammy.
    However Google didn’t link you to a website or so, nor a bunch of forum posts, so I approved it.

    Hope I’m right…

    Edit: Nope, I was wrong. So that comment is thrashed now :p

    Grtx,

    René

  13. Bill Bell Says:
    November 14th, 2011 at 04:23

    Hi Rene,Im still learning but was interested in shooting two tethered canon eos.would it be possible to use tethered link to set up cameras,then fire them simultaneously using two lap tops with a synchronised timer of some sort.
    I am still learning but keen to try out some stereoscopic photography mixing HDR and focal stacking techniques with this method.Its only an idea but in theory it should work,just the dual camera setup that is proving to be tricky.There must be a lateral solution to this.

  14. René Says:
    January 23rd, 2012 at 18:09

    Hi!

    Easiest solution would probably be to use a wired (or wireless) remote…

  15. Lynn Dalton Says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:20

    Rene, Thanks for this. It seems the main reason I’d use tethering isn’t even covered here – CONTROLLING the camera. I’m not just trying to speed up viewing the images on my laptop. I want to use it to replace the camera’s LCD while shooting. Could you talk about (or show) controlling the camera before the shot, especially focus?

  16. René Says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:34

    That can be done using Eos Utility.
    I this window, you hit the third icon in the bottom to get to “live view” (depending on camera model and software version, this might look totally different, like this for instance)

    You can then focus by clicking these buttons.

    Depending on the setting in camera for AF (back button or shutter button) and the camera model, the camera might still attempt to AF before the shot is taken. To avoid that, set the AF to back button focus (CFn4-3, or CFn IV-1-2)

  17. Richtrp Says:
    January 17th, 2013 at 12:45

    After taking a tethered photo using a canon 40D, DPP opens with a blank thumbnail? I have double clicked on the thumbnail and a large blank canvas opens. Any ideas

  18. René Says:
    January 19th, 2013 at 16:01

    Haven’t seen that happen…
    What version DPP? Does it open other 40D images?
    When you say “blank”: Obvious question: It’s not a massively overexposed image turned white?

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