Shooting tethered with Canon gear

I’ve not seen much coverage of how to shoot tethered using the Canon proprietary software, so for today’s post, I thought it might be useful to offer the Canon perspective here (since the blog bears the moniker of my camera vendor of choice).  For those who are Nikon shooters, I would highly recommend reading the post Scott Kelby did a while back that shows how to shoot tethered into Lightroom.  While he walks you through the Lightroom element, he then discusses the Nikon approach… the counterpoint here is to take a look at the Canon approach.

To start off – a little explanation of what tethered shooting is would be helpful.  Tethered shooting means you have your camera connected to your computer or laptop (usually a laptop for portability purposes).  This allows you to shoot straight into the computer with direct saves.  There are a couple advantages to tethered shooting.  First off, you don’t need any media cards, because the camera is transferring straight to the computer.  Second, regardless of what size LCD you have on the back of your sensor, nothing will compare with a 15″ or 17″ monitor.  You can see greater detail, see a broader tonal range, and get a much better handle on the finder points of composition when it comes to things like posing, lighting, and minimizing distractions that you could likely miss when using a 3″ LCD of your camera.

Okay, so now that we know when and why you would shoot tethered, and given an appropriate nod to Scott Kelby for his coverage of the Nikon version, here is a Canon-centric approach to tethered shooting.  Since the Lightroom component is already pretty well covered, I will just be limiting the discussion to showcasing the settings, screens and considerations to take into account when configuring the EOS Capture Utility.

When you first start the EOS Capture Utility, you get a rather unassuming window that doesn’t look like much:

Startup Screen for EOS Capture

Startup Screen for EOS Capture

It’s pretty straightforward – the top button would be used to download images if you are importing from all your images off a CF card.  The second button would enable you to select which images to import off a CF card.  More relative to this content is the Camera Settings/Remote Shooting button and the Monitor Folder button.   I’ll get to those in a minute.  Lastly, it’s helpful to draw your attention to the Preferences button on the lower right – this is the one  I’d like to take a closer look at now.

When you click on the Preferences button the window will change:


From here, you now have access to all the details of how you want to configure your tethered shooting options, starting out with the basic settings (see the drop down menu in the upper left).  This first setting tells the EOS Utility what screen you want to show when you first start the software.  This really is a matter of personal preference, but I would recommend the main window so that if you want to change your preferences, you can do so easily and quickly – often with software preference settings will require you to restart the program, so if that must happen, it’s always best to do that at start-up.

Moving right along, let’s take a look at the other preferences settings:


The Destination Folder Preferences

This should be pretty self-explanatory, but in the interests of covering each aspect, this is where you can specify what folder you want to save your images to on connecting your Canon camera to your computer.  For the purposes of this demonstration, I created a folder called EOS Capture and put it on my desktop to use as the destination folder.  To point the EOS Utility to your destination folder of choice, simply click the browse button, as shown:


Note that the EOS Utility does a nice little thing here – it creates a subfolder by date so helps to keep your images organized whether you are downloading images, doing remote shooting (tethered shooting), or set a monitored folder for some third party application (like Lightroom).  If you are going to be doig remote shooting, here is where you would likely select the remote shooting option so that when the camera gets connected, that specific task will create a subfolder and get you ready that much quicker.  Here, since I don’t have the full hardware connection, I am just going to leave it on the default setting and select the folder I created on my desktop:


File Name Preferences

If you want to change your image names from the default of _IMG_1234.jpg to another more descriptive naming convention (say JamesSmith.jpg this would be the place to do it.  The options are shown below:


If you choose to modify your images, you can elect from many options, including the option to customize for your needs – just click the drop down menu to select your options.  By default it’s set to Do Not Modify so I’l just leave that here to show your options for filename formats:


The next option here in your filename conventions is where you can define custom naming conventions, either by subject name (JamesSmith), event (SmithWeddding), or whatever convention works for you:


Feel free to customize these as you prefer for your own shooting conditions and, well….preferences!  Moving right along now…

Download Images Preferences


Here is where you tell the EOS Utility what to do with images as they are generated.  It’s pretty straightforward… the options are:


Remote Shooting Preferences

The remote shooting preferences here are also pretty straightforward:  Do you want to save your images to a card or not?  Do you want the software to rotate your images if needed to show the right orientation?  Depending on your preferences, check or uncheck these boxes:


Linked Software Preferences

Last but not least, do you want to use another piece of the Canon Software family of products to work on your tethered images , whether it be Digital Photo Profesional (aka DPP) or ImageBrowser:


Since my work flow incorporates the Adobe product line (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.), I would suggest choosing “None” here, but again, that’s why these are called preferences.

Once these Preferences are set, go ahead and return to the main window, then click the Monitor Folder option, because there is two last items that merit discussion here:

The Monitoring Folder


Note that the folder has been specified for me, but Canon has generously recommended that I take advantage of a specific Canon hardware connector to connect the camera and computer – the WFT-E1 Wireless Transmitter.  These are available from most camera retailers and e-tailers, but I like B&H so that is the one linked (and the price is fairly reasonable at $999.99, so if you get one, let me borrow it to review here on the blog! 🙂 ).  Basically what this allows you to do is shoot “tethered” to the computer, but without the tether…pretty cool stuff!

The Software Version

I created this post using the older version of the EOS Capture Utility, primarily because I had not used it since I owned my XT.    As with any software though, as camera bodies are added to the vendor family of products, the software must update too.  On capturing all the images for this post, I did not think the software would be what updated, only the camera drivers.  Clearly, that was not the case as the software itself has undergone a colorful transformation since then, and is now at its most recent update as of just last month at 2.6.1  You can download it and update via the 40D web page here (where I got mine just earlier).  The upshot though, and why I am keeping the original screen shots, is because functionally nothing has changed – there are just more camera drivers added to the library. To get your own drivers for other Canon cameras to use with the EOS capture, go to the main page here and select your camera…

Finally, I wanted to share a very short video from what the new interface looks like and how to use it when shooting in “tethered” mode:

So, there you have it!  My down-n-dirty summary of the Canon EOS Capture Utility – with photos, text, and video!  A virtual cornucopia of media to look at the feature set.  Enjoy the material!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, hear your feedback and get suggestions (other than checking the software for updates before I write the post! 😀 ) on future material that may be useful.  Don’t forget too – that contest to win a copy of Adobe Lightroom (which you can use to edit shots taken in tethered mode!) is going on through the end of May, so don’t delay – get those contributions in today!  One shot could be worth a free copy of Adobe Lightroom!  That’s it for today – have a great one, Happy Shooting, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow for the latest in photography composition.

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8 comments for “Shooting tethered with Canon gear

  1. May 12, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Great write up Jason. I’ve never actually done this, but have been toying with the idea for some portrait stuff where it would be great to see an output on screen straight away.

  2. Sam
    May 12, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Used this tool last year to run a photo booth at a Harvest Festival. I had 1 macbook pro, 1 Canon 40d, 1 5×6 printer, and more than 100 folks come by for pictures. It was quite fun. I used the live view feature (not sure what is called) to see what I was taking a picture of before hitting the remote shutter button. Then a quick crop if necessary and hit the print button. Very useful indeed.

  3. May 13, 2009 at 4:50 am

    Thanks for this, Jason. I recently tried shooting tethered into Lightroom for the first time and used Scott’s post as a guide. It would have been easier with all the Canon info in one place. This is a great reference…

  4. Lex2483
    May 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Instead of the official wireless attachment that costs 999.95, it might be useful to update this post with a wireless USB dongle that can be had for 39.95 instead. There was a tutorial online that showed it for Nikon DSLR’s but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work with a Canon and with that much of a price difference it is very enticing.

    • May 18, 2009 at 10:08 pm

      Interesting – do you have a link for the wireless USB dongle? I would be very interested in that. The cheap alternative that I had been using were the Cactus triggers which have been pretty good as far as range and reliability go – a bit of jerry-rigging involved, but not too shabby. I did a review of this a while back:

  5. Lex2483
    May 19, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Here’s the tutorial on engadget for a Nikon rig. They use a wireless USB dongle, a AA battery pack, and an angled USB adapter. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but the concept is pretty straightforward. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a pretty good fix, although I am pretty new to the DSLR scene. I am about to order the new Rebel T1I in a few more days. Let me know how it works out when you do try it.

  6. StrangeRover
    June 14, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Fantastic info, Jason.
    Do you have any insight on using this setup to shoot tethered video?
    I think using the ‘Live View” mode might be involved.

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