Dec 6, 2006

Tethered shooting in Lightroom

studio-shots180906-0045.jpgIntroduction to tethered shooting – If you are able to connect your camera directly to the computer, Lightroom has the potential to let you import image files directly from the camera.

Photographs can be quickly brought into Lightroom, bypassing the need for a camera card and having to configure the Import settings every time you import a batch of images.

This is also referred to as ‘tethered shooting’ and I say Lightroom has the potential to do this because Lightroom will need to rely on other software that can communicate with your camera and download capture files to a specified folder location.

With this in place, Lightroom can be configured to automatically import these images into the library.

Connecting the camera to the computer
To shoot in tethered mode you need the ability to connect your camera to the computer. Ideally, you want the fastest connection possible. Most professional digital SLRs will offer a Firewire (IEEE 1394) connection, which in practice will allow you to shoot and download at around the same speed as you can with a fast camera memory card. The only downside is that you have to have your camera connected to the computer via a Firewire cable and this can restrict the amount of freedom you have to move about without pulling the cable out, or worse still, pulling a laptop computer off the table! Another option is to shoot wirelessly.

At the time of writing there are wireless units available for some digital SLR cameras that will allow you to transmit images directly from the camera to a base station linked to the computer. Wireless shooting offers you the freedom, up to a certain distance, to move about without the restrictions of a tethered cable. But the current data transmission speeds with some cameras are a lot slower than those you can expect from a Firewire connection.

Rapid shooting via a wireless connection can work well if you are shooting in JPEG mode, but not if you intend shooting raw files only. But that may change in the future. On Nikon equipment, you can shoot wirelessly via ptp or ftp. It appears so far, that ptp is better, and should rival Firewire, since ptp should handle things much faster due to the compression built into the transmission.

Camera capture software
Lightroom is able to appropriate the tethered shooting component of the camera communication software and from there, directly take over the image processing and image management. Here’s how it works: the camera communication software can be instructed to download the files to a specific folder location and once the files appear in this ‘watched’ folder, Lightroom can be instructed to immediately copy the files into the Lightroom library. And because the files are simultaneously deleted from the watched folder, you effectively bypass the camera software and the images will appear directly in Lightroom.

At this point in time I can confirm that it is possible to use Lightroom in conjunction with the Canon Viewer software designed for the Canon EOS range of cameras. Below. I have outlined the steps that would be needed to setup a Canon EOS camera such as the EOS 1Ds MkII to auto-import the files directly into Lightroom.

Nikon users will find that Nikon Capture includes a Camera Control component that allows you to do the same thing as the Canon software and establishes a watched folder to download the images to. The latest version of Nikon Capture supports all the D Series cameras as well as the Nikon Coolpix 8700. Alternatively, you might want to consider buying Bibble Pro 4.7 software from Bibble Labs. Bibble Pro costs a lot less than Nikon Capture. It enables tethered shooting with a wide variety of digital cameras, and again, allows you to establish a watched folder for the downloaded images. As I say, I have not been able to test these other programs out yet, but you should be able to adapt the following steps to work with Lightroom.

The steps shown here demonstrate how to use the Auto Import feature using the Canon EOS Viewer utility program that is supplied free with the Canon EOS range of cameras. At the time of writing, these are the only cameras that I have been able to test shooting with in tethered mode. Although you won’t need to use the program to view and process the imported files, you need to leave EOS Utility running in the background because it is needed to interact with the connected camera.

Note: The EOS Viewer program described here is software that should have come with your Canon camera and can also be downloaded free from the Canon cameras website: (look for the download library section on the site). I have also tried using the self-contained Canon EOS utility program, but in my experience I have found that the combination of using EOS Viewer plus EOS Capture, has allowed me to work faster in tethered mode when shooting with the EOS 1 Ds MkII.


1. To begin with, launch EOS Viewer utility and click the Preferences button. Under Destination Folder, click Browse… to select a watched folder and click OK. Quit the program for now (you need to relaunch in order for the new folder location to be recognized).


2. Now go to Lightroom and open the preferences located in the Lightroom menu (or use Command+, (Mac) or Control+, (PC). Click on the Import tab, click to Enable Auto-Import and then click on the Choose… button to select the same watched folder as was selected in Step 1. But before leaving the Import preferences, click on the Auto Import Settings… button.


3. Here is the Auto Import Settings sub dialog, which will allow you to configure the Import settings for the auto imported files. These will be applied to all the images that are about to be captured and for the duration of the shoot (you will want to reconfigure these settings on a job by job basis). In the example shown here, I established a File Naming and renumbering scheme using the tokens available from the fly-out menu. You can select a bulk metadata template, select which custom Develop settings to use and, if you like, enter custom Keywords to apply to all the files as they are imported.


4. You are now almost ready to shoot. Make sure the camera is tethered to the computer and switched on. Launch EOS Viewer and click on the Connect to Camera button, which will launch EOS Capture. You can now use the camera as normal by pressing the shutter release, or use the EOS Capture utility to capture pictures remotely by clicking on the blue camera button in the dialog.


5. As you start shooting, the EOS Viewer utility will bring the camera files directly into the watched folder you selected in Step 1. From there, Lightroom will recognize that a new image has been added to the watched folder and import these captures as a new shoot using the Auto import settings. Once everything has been configured, you should be able to carry on taking pictures all day with the camera connected to the computer and all the images will be processed automatically using the settings entered in Step 3.

Caution! The Auto Import settings in Beta 4 do not allow you to save backup files to a secondary location, as you can with the normal Import dialog. Make sure you remember to periodically make manual copies of your auto imported files throughout the shoot.

Tips when using Lightroom in tethered mode
It should be possible to configure the Auto Import settings once at the beginning of a shoot and everything you photograph subsequently will be handled completely automatically. But of course, things can never be guranteed to run so smoothly. One thing to watch out for is if you update the Develop settings used in the Auto Import, you will need to reselect this again before you continue shooting. If the camera becomes disconnected, or the battery runs down, you may not always be able to plug it back in and carry on as before. In Beta 4 at least, you may sometimes need to create a fresh shoot via the Import preferences.

When you shoot using the tethered mode it is useful to see new images appear at the top of the content area as they are imported. To enable this, go to the View menu and choose Sort ➯ Descending. You may want to switch the sort order back to Ascending again for normal editing.

Further information about wireless shooting
Here is an interesting technology to look out for in the future: Eye-Fi are about to introduce a product called Eye-Film, which is a media card incorporating 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and 1 GB of Flash storage. Eye-Film will come in the form of an SD card (a Compact Flash Type-II adapter will allow digital SLR users to put these in cameras witout an SD slot). Once you start shooting the card will transfer photos from within your camera to any computer with Wi-Fi support. With Eye-Film, the originals remain on the card as well as transmitting to the computer. So far it is known that only JPEG files can be transmitted in this way. For more information, go to:

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom book
Peachpit will be publishing The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book by Martin Evening. Martin has been working with Lightroom from the beginning, providing feedback to Lightroom’s development well before the public beta and monitoring the product’s development. The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book describes Lightroom’s features in detail and with photographers in mind. The book is aimed at photographers at all levels: amateurs as well as professionals and will offer a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about the program. Photographers who routinely work with raw images will find Lightroom–and The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book–an indispensable tool in their digital darkroom.

The book is also currently available as a Rough Cut version (updated for Beta 4)

ROUGH CUTS BOOK: The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book
by Martin Evening
Publisher: Adobe Press
Pub Date: February 14th, 2007 (est.)
Print ISBN-10: 0-32-138543-8
Print ISBN-13: 978-0-321-38543-7
eText ISBN-10: 0-321-45003-5
eText ISBN-13: 978-0-321-45003-6
Pages: 352 (estimated)
List Price: USD $40.00 (when released)

Special Rough Cuts pricing on Safari:
Print Book and Online Access Bundle USD $54.00
Online Access Only USD $28.00
Print Book Only USD $28.00 (normally $40.00)

14 Responses to “Tethered shooting in Lightroom”

  1. pep9454 Says:

    I know that Canon has the ability to wirelessly transmit with their WiFi transmitter. Will this be available the same way as shooting tethered?


  2. Santa Fe Says:


    I just wanted to pass something on to you that happened to me this afternoon with regards to tethering with LR. I began a thread at Adobe and your link led me here.

    I use a Canon EOS 1Ds MkII and use the following Canon software: ImageBrowser, CameraWindow, EOS Utility, and of course, DPP. Just a moment ago, I was attempting to upload some images from my camera and CameraWindow would not launch. It simply bounced in the dock, then nothing. But then LR opened and prompted me to upload my new files. The import window that was open had the correct folder ’2005-12-06′ ready to go. As is the norm with Canon software, it uses that naming convention.

    Moving ahead, each image was imported from the camera into LR. No problem. Once I was done I began looking for the above-mentioned folder and found it in Pictures/Lightroom/Photos/2006/2006-12-06.

    I have had a full-plate today and only skimmed your tether article. You wrote it, I’ve read and done it several times: we must use software that came with our particular cameras to move the cameras images to the computer then from there we link into LR. Well, that is not what I experience today. The Canon software would not open, LR launched and opened the Import window and so on. One could argue that the Canon software actually did open and import the images. If that were the case, the new image folder would be found in Pictures/2006-12-06, not buried in the Lightroom folder.

    About a week ago, I updated my Canon software. I updated DPP then EOS Utility would not function properly. So, I had to update that as well. All four software programs work as they should, that is until this afternoon.

    I could be totally wrong in all of this, but I’m telling you what I experienced. Nothing more. I like to hear your thoughts on this.

    Phillip Anthony Briles

  3. SeanMcFoto Says:

    Hi Phillip.
    I’ve been in your thread and am using EOS Utility too.
    What you are describing has nothing to do with tethering per se. Lightroom simply imported the images from your camera into its Library, using Segment by Date with the default option of placing inside a containing shoot called 2006. The Canon software did not import the images.
    To shoot tethered using EOS Utility, you connect the camera (via firewire for you) and the 3rd option (Shoot remotely) in EOS Utility becomes available. When you click this a box similar to the screen capture in step 3 above appears. You click on the little computer icon and this allows you to set up the capture options and location. The steps are the same from there.
    This does work.

  4. Martin Evening Says:

    To add to what Sean has written, it can be confusing if you tether a camera to Lightroom and there are files already on a card in the camera. This is because in Lightroom there is a default preference to auto show the Import Photos dialog and will prompt you to download the files from the card (which is not the same as tethered shooting). You could cancel out of this or change the preferences in Lightroom to not launch this dialog automatically, or download those files and clear the card. Then you would be able to proceed following the tethered shooting instructions. Hope this helps.


  5. kkww Says:


    Thanks for the primer. You don’t go into the later aspects of the workflow — I’d be interested to know how you pragmatically work with the programs in terms of full-screen image viewing, so that you can see the image large as soon as possible after hitting the shutter button, without having to do anything at all on the computer. In particular, to be across the room from the computer (wherever I’ve moved to shoot), and glance over at a large monitor and see the image, and not need to walk all the way over each time…

    I’ve also had lots of problems (on windows) with the camera driver malfunctioning if the camera is ever disconnected — I have to reboot to get winXP to re-recognize the camera. Or if I want to switch from 1DmkII to 1Ds, even if I properly disconnect from the canon software first, I still have to reboot to get winXP to recognize the other camera. Just laugh at me for using Windows. But still, it’s important to know the best way to make the situation work, so wondering if you have thoughts on that.


  6. Martin Evening Says:

    I understand what you are saying and others have requested the same: a kind of auto refreshing loupe mode display that refreshes each time a new shot is added. It won’t happen this time for version 1.0, but could possibly become an auto imoprt preference for a future program update.

    Different programs and operating systems have their different strengths and weaknesses. As a Mac user I am very envious of how easy it is to do a complete uninstall on a Windows box! Camera driver problems can occur on either platform and as you will gather from the article, to get this to work it’s a kludge that is reliant on external programs/drivers being able to do the actual import, and Lightroom simply picks up the imported files from there and manages them.


  7. eclic Says:

    I have a Canon 5D and I’ve been using demo versions of Capture One to tether and it usually works great (MacBookPro). Connecting, setting up new shots and file naming is very easy. But I feel the processing is limited especially because C1Pro doesn’t have HSL tuning like Lightroom and now Bridge CS3.

    I sometime use the Canon utility and view incoming files in Bridge – then open files in Camera Raw and save new default settings to set WB, exp, curves, etc. I tried to follow the method above but I do not have EOS Viewer – I don’t see it on Canon’s website either. In the EOS Utility prefs I don’t see a way to set a “watched” folder that Lightroom can see. Is there a way with either ImageBrowser or EOS Utility to set a watched folder? I find using any of the Canon software apps to be painful. I would rather invest in Adobe Lightroom than C1Pro because I’m sure Adobe will be around (much) longer.

  8. Martin Evening Says:

    I can’t remember exactly where EOS Utility is located, but it is freely available on Canon’s website. I have not described EOS Viewer here, but have used it successfully with the EOS 400D camera. Try doing a more general web search.


  9. eclic Says:

    Hi Martin

    I have the EOS Utility 1.1.1 and I have ImageBrowser but I cannot seem to find a way to make a watched folder. I guess I’ll contact Canon tech support. It makes the folder (you set-up in the prefs) after you shoot a frame (that I can monitor in Bridge) but LR seems to need a folder made in advance (the watched folder). Unless I am misunderstanding something about LR. Can LR watch and update a premade folder like Bridge can? Any chance LR will find a way to bypass using the camera manufacturers applications so we can tether directly to LR?


  10. Martin Evening Says:

    Have you tried clicking on the Monitor Folder button? This is the option you need for setting a watched folder that lightroom can then auto import from.


  11. benanders Says:

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for describing this method of shooting directly into LR. I did have a real struggle to find the Canon Viewer software that you describe. I am shooting with a Canon 5D and I think that the software is not combatible with the 5D. Canon do not give the option to download Canon Viewer for this camera, so I think that we are stuck with Image Browser.

    I know this thread is a little old now, however to answer eclic, the following is how I manged to set up shooting tethered with Image Browser on a 5D. This seems to work with my set up and is ultimately very similar to Martin’s steps. Martin I hope you don’t mind me sharing…

    Tether camera and turn camera on.
    (Canon camera window will auto open)

    Launch Image Browser
    Click the Canon camera icon which will launch Camera Window DSLR
    Click remote shooting and then choose/create folder for images to be saved into through the canon software.

    No need to quit any canon software.
    Launch LR. – Under Preferences and import, check enable auto import, choose the folder you set up previously in step 1, and also under auto import settings, select a shoot folder within LR. This is where the image will ultimately be saved in. Also set any other meta etc.

    I hope this helps.



  12. Liveengineer Says:

    Thanks for the info peoples
    Using EOS400,Win xp,EOS utility pointing to designated folder and open in program set to none.
    LR set to auto import. All works great so far.
    Auto refreshing loupe would be nice


  13. Martin Evening Says:

    Actually, I can reveal now that in version 1.0 the loupe view does now auto refresh when you shoot in tethered mode.


  14. guate6 Says:

    I’ve been wanting to know how the entire process works for some time now. I didn’t know it was called “tether” I, for some reason, thought that the term “workflow” was for this process.

    I’m a Nikon D100 -series user (D200) and have been asked to do portraits at my local church for the employees, as all the pictures originally were done by polaroid, and are a few years old. I had seen other photographers, at parties and what not, using this method, where the image appears almost immediately after shooting it, and I’ve been curious since.

    I got my copy of Capture 4.4, and connected the camera, and then I also opened Lightroom and used the auto-import option. It works like a charm. Thank you for having taken the time to write about it. I will host a mini-workshop now for a local group of Nikon users to be able to do the same, and/or co-host with my friend who shoots canon.

    Again, thank you.

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