In today’s post, we’re going to talk all about why you should be shooting tethered in your food photography.
For a long time throughout my food photography journey, I viewed tethered shooting as something “only the pro’s” did. It seemed overkill to me when I had a perfectly good LCD screen on my camera, so why would I bother investing in extra equipment and adding another step to my workflow?
Well, I was kind of missing the point. As for “only the pro’s tether”… pffff. Who decides who the pro’s are? Seriously though, by having this mindset, all I was doing was holding myself back in my food photography, instead of embracing one of the most useful tools I had at my disposal.
And as for the fear of investment and time in extra equipment and setup, this fear was completely unfounded. The extra investment is SO minimal, and the extra time you spend setting things up is saved ten-fold later on in your shoot.
So if tethering is something you’ve thought about trying, but you haven’t taken the plunge yet, today, I’m going to take you through four ways tethering has changed my food photography game.
What is tethered shooting?
Tethered shooting is where you link your camera up to your computer via a cable, so you get a larger preview of what your camera is seeing and the ability to adjust your camera settings from your computer.
”But why would I need that? My camera has a live view screen?”
Well, my friend. There are many, many good reasons to use more than just your live view screen during your shoots, and I’ll get to those in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at some of the reasons you might have been putting off tethering…
Why you might have been avoiding tethered shooting
Sure, there’s a bit of extra setup required when tethering, but once you make it part of your shooting routine you’ll be able to get things set up in under two minutes, and the time you’ll save later on in your shoot will be totally worth it.
I need lots of equipment
WRONG. In fact, all you need to tether (other than your camera) is a tethering cable and some software from your computer (which may well be free). Later on in this post I’ve got a couple of resources for you to figure out exactly which cable and software you need for your camera.
It’s buggy and freezes
If your only experience of tethering so far is through Lightroom, then yeah, it probably is. I actually don’t recommend Lightroom for tethering, although it’s my editing program of choice.
You are much better off using a dedicated tethering software. For my Canon 80D, I use Canon EOS Utility for Mac (it’s free). I’ll come to the list of software later on in this post.
It’s too technical
If you’ve been around here for more than 2 minutes, you know that I am not a “it’s too technical” kind of person. In fact, one of my main goals with That’s Sage is to show you that you can do anything technical.
Seriously, the technical stuff will empower your photography, so don’t shy away from it.
The first time you try anything new in your food photography, you need to get your head around it, but after a couple of shoots, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without tethering.
Ok, so now we’ve busted the reasons NOT to shoot tethered… let’s look at the reasons we should!
Reasons tethered shooting will transform your food photography
You’ll be able to nail down your composition much more easily
When it comes to composition, I’m 100% for planning before you start. Planning and sketching out your compositions allows you to effectively use compositional techniques to give your food photography direction and focus.
When you put so much time and effort into planning your photo before you start your shoot, tethered shooting will give you the best chance of achieving the vision in your mind. You’ll be able to slow down and really look at your composition in real time, evaluating your work and making adjustments earlier, resulting in better out of camera images. This is what I see on my computer screen:
When shooting flatlays, my camera is suspended from my tripod above my table, so the only way to see my frame would be to either awkwardly stand on a chair and crane over the table for a look, or to angle my live view screen as best as I can and still have to lean to see it.
By having my camera tethered to my laptop, I get a big, convenient live view image of my photo, which makes the process of making those adjustments much easier, and eliminates those nasty surprises that you get when you upload all your photos.
Never have a blurry photo again
Let’s talk focussing. One of the biggest disappointments after a food shoot, is to upload your photos to your computer and realise that they are all juuuuust a little bit out of focus. Food SHINES when it’s got that tack sharp focus, and there’s no reason not to nail it every time.
When you tether, you’re able to zoom in on exactly the point of your photo you choose as your focal point, and adjust your focus perfectly. I always recommend using manual focus (especially when you shoot with a tripod), because it’s just more accurate than auto focus.
You’ll shoot less (and that’s actually a good thing)
When you walk into your shoot with a clear vision for what you want to achieve (through planning), and you shoot tethered, you’re already seeing on screen the images you’re coming out with, so there’s no reason to rely on quantity to “get the shot”.
Because of the ability to really slow down and nail your composition, set your focus and make adjustments, you won’t need to take 50 shots and then spend time picking the best one.
And that leads me nicely into the next point…
You’ll save time
This is probably the biggest one…
The extra two minutes you spend setting up your tethering cable and camera is without a doubt going to save you time during, and after your shoot. As well as having a much larger preview of your image, you also have the ability to preview your histogram right on the screen and potentially even make some immediate adjustments to your RAW files. These adjustments will allow you to see if any further “on set” changes are actually necessary, or whether you have enough detail in the highlights and shadows to work with.
Your editing time will also be greatly reduced because you’ll be able to make any changes necessary to get the best out of camera images possible. Editing is a powerful tool and a really important part of the food photography process, but eliminating unnecessary issues like a dodgy white balance, or a rogue raspberry that just doesn’t fit, will save you lots of time later on.
GEAR YOU NEED
In order to set up tethered shooting, here’s what you’ll need:
- Your Camera
- A Tripod (preferably)
- A tethering cable
- Tethering software
Is tethered shooting a standard part of your food photography process? If not, has this inspired you to give it a go?