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Archive for February, 2007

To tether or not to tether…

Posted in gear on February 13th, 2007 by gregr

…that is the question.

Tethered, by the way, means shooting with the camera connected directly to a computer; the photos typically download to the computer as you shoot, and you can view them immediately. There are ups and downs to this.

There are lots of advantages. You can preview the actual lighting on the model before shooting too much, and make minor adjustments. The crew can watch the images as they come up, and make adjustments as necessary (lighting, hair, makeup, etc). The art director can make sure you’re getting the images you need. And you can show images to the model occasionally if you wish. And with some medium format digital backs, you don’t have a choice. :-)

There are downsides though, too…first, you have a cable coming out of the camera. Depending on the location, this can be a deal killer. And second, you really have to be careful about where the screen is, which direction it’s facing, and who’s looking at it. The one thing you do NOT want is for the model to be able to see the screen while you’re shooting – they can’t help but get a little distracted by it. And what I’ve found is if the computer is close to the set, the model will pick up on the reactions of those watching the screen, so you have to be careful about that as well. If they frown, she’ll assume things are going badly; if they laugh, she’ll assume she looks funny (or is being funny :-).

Whether a shot is good or great typically comes down to the interaction and chemistry between photographer and model – and anything that distracts from that is a risk.

And one more thing I’ve found, while shooting tethered to a laptop…be SURE that your computer can keep up with the shots coming from the camera. In one instance, shots were taking on average about 4 seconds from shot to screen. The camera would buffer 10-15 shots, but then I would have to wait for them to download before I could continue shooting. When we’re close to a shot I like, I’ll sometimes shoot 1 shot every second or so for maybe 30 seconds, getting lots of slight variations to choose from later; when I’m in a groove like this, and the model is working with me and knows exactly what I want, there is NOTHING more annoying than a technical limitation that makes me slow down. In this case, the limitation was hard drive speed, so lesson learned – don’t skimp on the computer!

So should you shoot tethered? In the end, it depends. I’ve found that my crew typically prefers it, so they can make sure everything is going perfectly, and it’s nice to know FOR SURE that you got the shot you need. There are certainly advantages – but be careful, and don’t let the temptations of the screen disrupt the shoot!