Something I hate to do but must do for three days next week: Tethering. A fool's errand.

I am aware that many photographers like to shoot tethered to their laptops or tethered to their studio PCs. I'm sure this makes sense in still life shooting situations that require exacting compliance to a client's comprehensive layout or when working collaboratively with an art direct bent on arranging props within a static scene in just the right way. But I have never warmed up to the idea of shooting portraits while tethered to a monitor or laptop. It would seem that one loses control over implementing one's own style and the conviction that they understand and can assess the value of the "right" frame in a better, or different, way than can the portrait sitter in front of them. 

So it is with sad resignation that I am approaching a project next week. One of my clients is having a sales meeting. It's an "all hands on deck" function that will bring people in from all over north America for the week. The marketing folks have decided that it will be an opportune time to provide portrait photos for anyone who needs them or wants them. This request falls on the other side of the line from "Large and beautifully crafted prints to be displayed proudly" and resides on the side of the use field that includes: headshot for LinkedIn and Facebook, small snap for electronic proposals and (maybe) use on a website. In other words there stated expectation is that we'll take about five minutes per person to get a good shot. Not much more. 

But here's the kicker: they want us to shoot tethered so we can show the portrait sitters the images immediately after we've shot them. They want the sitter to select an image on the spot and they would like us to send the image directly to them via e-mail, on site. 

The tight scheduling means I have to work with an assistant. I choose Ben. The real issue is the throughput and the inevitable delays as people hem and haw over exactly which frame they should choose. I don't like to work this way because there is always some retouching that can be done in post to make each person look better. It just be a judicious crop but it may also be removing a pimple or smoothing skin. 

Recently Panasonic delivered a new application that is free to GH5 and G9 users. It's called Lumix Tether and it delivers tethered shooting and camera control. It's very straightforward software so it doesn't create a gallery of images; it just shows them one at a time. In order to make it easier on the people who will be choosing the images I decided I would take the tethering one step further and combine it with Lightroom so we can look at images side by side, zoom in, etc. After much trial and error I was able to get the three pieces (camera, Lumix Tether and Lightroom) to work together. I can shoot, pull the images into a "watched" folder and then share them on the screen with the "customer." 

Then I ran into another glitch of sorts; my MacBook Pro laptop has a 13 inch screen and the display images in Lightroom are just too darn small to be easily readable. I'm not about to haul my primary computer off my desk and leave it in a Westin Hotel meeting room for three days so I started looking around for other options. It dawned on me that I could use the Thunderbolt connection on the laptop to create an HDMI port, via an adapter I have in my toolkit. Then I could attach a TV to the whole shebang and people could adore themselves, large scale. It would be a much more cost effective alternative to buying a new, fully spec'd 15 inch MacBook Pro with a i7 processor. 

If I could send the image from the laptop to the TV I could provide enough square footage to make selection easy. I could go straight from the camera to the TV with an HDMI cable (thank you! Panasonic for giving me a full size HDMI port!!!) but that would complicate the process of then sending the selected file via e-mail, on the spot. For that I'd need the laptop in the mix.

We have one TV in the house. It's an older 50 inch Vizio 720p unit and I am loathe to disconnect it and bring it along, mostly because I think a newer model would have a much better and more detailed screen image but also because the size of the unit is painful and our space on site is limited. With all this in mind I headed to Costco to buy a current TV. I bought a 32 inch model that's LED, 1080, wi-fi enabled and has a convenient HDMI port. It's also a Vizio (my other choice was a Samsung...) and it set me back less than $200.

With the whole mess assembled together my number one priority is to remember not to wander off with the camera in my hands and thereby pull everything crashing down to the floor. At peak times the TV image will no doubt attract a "peanut" gallery who will attempt to "inspire" the sitter with exhortations and catcalls. I can hardly wait. Yes, the space the meeting planners have chosen for us is mostly public...

The client and I are still flirting with negotiating a different process. I would be happy to keep the TV in the mix, happy to allow for immediate, on site image selection too, but I am trying to sell them on allowing us to record the frame number of each person's selection on a form, along with the person's e-mail address, and then touching each file with some magic retouching spells at the end of each day and sending along the improved images. We'll see how strong my powers of persuasion might be. 

The lure of the paycheck so far outweighs my righteous indignation at having an external force willfully change my workflow. We'll see if we can't maintain that rational approach as the situation devolves into the unknown by the end of the first day...

On another note, below are images I made yesterday on my first walk through downtown in the new year. Actually, since the 22nd of December. 

The rationalization for the walk was stress relief but the underlying reason was to put the Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN (haven't a clue as to what those abbreviations might mean; if anything) through its paces. I was very happy to have it along and I find myself liking the files at least as much as I did when I owned the same basic lens (different mount) for the Sony APS-C, Nex cameras. 

A corner of the kitchen in my parent's house. 
Image shot with the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN art at 3200 on G85 with no processing. 
Nostalgia included in the mix.

Final thoughts on tethering: Don't do it unless you have to and you're going to get paid for it. Tethering is a pain in the ass.


Jim Metzger said...

I'd be surprised if the venue didn't have a TV for you to use but of course that throws another wrench into the items out of your control until you show up at the venue. You could also use a device like CamRanger to wirelessly send the image to an iPad set up for client review. More intimate and takes public comments out of the picture (bad pun).

I usually do quick turn around headshots for corporate clients but offer to send 3-4 "selects" for their choice and then do the retouch on the selected image. Everyone wins that way. I always try to convince the client that a flattering headshot is more important than a quick headshot.

In any case you may want to consider importing the images into Lightroom "horizontally reversed", there is a setting for that. It is used primarily for people to see themselves as they would if they were looking into a mirror. It makes it easier for the subject to evaluate their portrait in a more natural manner.

Good luck!

PS looking forward to the next 7,000,000 words.

Dave Jenkins said...

Kirk, I've done something similar to this for business portraits for many years and much prefer it.

After the situation is well covered, the subject views his portraits on a monitor -- but not all at once. It's easier for most people to go through a process of elimination, rather than going directly to the one they like best.

The files are copied into another folder so as not to accidentally delete the best ones, and then the subject is shown the first and second shots. "Which do you prefer?" "This one? Okay," The reject is deleted and the next one is brought up. "Which do you prefer?" By this process of choose and delete we are quickly able to arrive at the subject's preferred portrait, and that's the only one that needs to be processed in Photoshop and Portrait Pro. Meanwhile, all exposures are saved in the backup folder, just in case.

Occasionally, but not often, the subject can narrow his selections down to two, but can't decide any further. When that happens, both choices are saved and processed and the client who is paying for the shoot can make the final choice.

Kirk Tuck said...

Jim, if the Westin Hotel and Conference Center has a 32 inch flat screen TV for me I'm sure it will come attached with an invoice for three days of rental that will exceed the Costco purchase price of the unit I will bring. If I opted for their rental they would likely get it to my location about ten minutes before people started lining up for portraits and only then would I find that their particular models uses a non-standard HDMI cable which they don't have any longer.

As I stated in my blog I would love for the client to become rational and put in time for retouch but we'll see..

Finally, the minute I reverse an engineer's photo I'll get hell because the shirt placket will be facing the wrong side.... Ah, clients....

Kirk Tuck said...

Dave, I'm shooting back up files on two identical cards but will display about 8 images on the screen and lead them to the one I want them to have. Works. Almost every time.

Anonymous said...

I first saw this done in 2006. A 32" HDLCD, and a Mac Mini running Capture One Pro, both sitting on a rolling industrial cart. Worked in the studio, and it worked on location. One location was a hotel ballroom portrait shoot, something like you are now doing.

Richard Leacock said...

Looking forward to hear how the the workflow and event turn out. Nice that another company (Panasonic) has designed a tether/app/process for us non-Canikon users to consider to use. As an aside, I appreciate you bringing back your archives so I can go back to a previous article for some pertinent information, or to have someone new to your blog (that i've recommended to visit) catch up and research/enjoy your previous musings and "rants" : )



Michael Matthews said...

Let me second Richard Leacock’s appreciation for the reinstatement of the archives. If I ever get the OMD EM5.2 to permit me to try video it will be because of the info in your postings from a couple of years ago. The manual is useless.

Dave Jenkins said...

The dual cards is an obvious solution for you, but not so much for me. I've never owned a camera with dual card slots. :o)

Don said...

I’m tempted to suggest to do the whole shoot on an iPhone and 4G the shots straight to the laptop/TV! A few quick edits on Snapseed or similar and then e-mail the selects there and then. Maybe not what the clients are expecting though!

Anonymous said...

You said Ben will be working with you, but did you ask for his advice on the equipment and set up? I’m not saying you are not up on the latest technology, but he’s a kid and may have some ideas you haven’t thought of.

If it was me, I would bring a router, set up a little WiFi network with a NAS and let people look at their photos on a tablet. The chosen photo could be emailed right from the tablet and your other equipment would not be tied up by someone viewing their photos. However, I’m a computer geek, not a professional photographer so I don’t know if that flow would work.

C. Kurt Holter said...

I just bought what is probably the same Vizio tv at Costco the other day, and it's amazing for the price. Mine is in the family room instead of my studio though.

I also hate tethering on location and have only had to do it a time or two for this kind of situation. The best thing I've done for myself was to insist that somebody from the company's marketing or event staff play "bad cop" during the selection process and make people choose quickly and move along. Otherwise you're going to likely have a scenario where some people will hem, haw, and solicit opinions from co-workers, and you'll have a logjam.

Anders C. Madsen said...

I do quite a bit of exactly this type of jobs, and I have found that a collapsible reflector or background (5x7') clamped to a stand is a godsend when it comes to creating a bit of privacy, both around the sitter and in order to shield the monitor from curious bystanders.

I usually have two or three very light stands (Elinchrom EL30162 is my weapon of choice) with me just for this purpose, and while it may not look very elegant, it sure gets the job done and makes my life so much easier, especially since it is a lot easier to the the full attention of the sitter this way.

Jason Hindle said...

I’m surprised. I will soon be in the market for just that kind of headshot for my own LinkedIn account. I’m a terrible judge of my own image so will do as the photographer says and accept whatever retouching is required. That said, it does sound like it will be a fun event for the people having their photos taken.

Rick Markovich said...


Check out Capture One Pilot, a free add on to Capture One Pro that allows connections to any web connected device like an iPad, iPhone, or laptop. Ad hoc networks are supported, so your laptop could create it's own network and device(s) could connect to it. Not sure if it will meet all your requirements, but it's very slick in it's implementation. I find the tethering module of Capture One Pro is also much sturdier and feature rich than Lightroom's.

Kirk Tuck said...

C. Kurt Holter, Great suggestion about having a "bad cop" from the company to crack the selection whip. Will do!

Anders, thanks for that. Now packing additional stands and a 5x7 foot pop-up background....

Rick, I'll try that in the future. Can't switch programs midstream. But sounds like something good.

Fred said...

I can't speak to the tethering issue since I haven't been tethered for a while (although I probably should ask Betsy for sure) but I really like the picture of your parents' kitchen. I find it very moving and I like the composition. That lens is interesting for someone who traditionally used a 35mm lens as a normal one instead of a 50.

Mark Davidson said...

It seems to me that the Lumix app should send the image to the iPad.
In the times I have used it the image is large enough to make decisions.

I haven't used the Lumix app for a bit as the one for my FZ1000 stunk.(I use CamRanger and Canon) But if they have improved it, it may be the ticket if it has the ability to email or AirDrop it.

Raymond Charette said...

This comment is totally off-subject, although I understand your hesitation to work tethered.
I can't help noticing in your accompanying pictures how people on the street are «bundled up», and yet the grass is green, I mean green!
Anyhow, I just want to say that where I live, temperatures have hovered between -25 and - 15 Celsius! Green grass is still at least 3 months away!
Good luck with your shoot!