Before talking about a number of tools, tables, and accessories that will improve your tethered photography, let’s just be clear about what we mean by “tethered” photography. Of course, like so many things, it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Tethered photography is simply shooting with your camera linked to your computer, so the images bypass the camera’s memory storage and go directly to a photo management software program in your computer.
"Tethered photography is simply shooting with your camera linked to your computer..."
There are clear advantages to shooting tethered; however, normally it’s a practice reserved for professional shooters and those who need a high level of control over their images at the time they are shooting them. Because shooting tethered can help fine-tune image quality, ease the selection process, and save a lot of time, it is something that you should consider if it fits your needs. Shooting tethered allows the photographer and his or her colleagues to see the images in real time on a monitor much bigger than the camera itself can offer. That alone is an advantage when checking focus, contrast, and color accuracy. And the monitor, unlike a camera’s LCD, can be calibrated to better match the final application of the photos and, therefore, allow for immediate changes to improve the job.
While tethered, your computer also serves as a remote control for camera functions, which can be very helpful, especially when previewing and triggering your camera in macro, time lapse, or low-light situations. And of course, shooting tethered saves a good deal of time, not only because you are editing as you go, but because the simple act of transferring photos from memory cards to computers and then into the program you will work with takes up precious minutes.
Of course, shooting tethered is not advantageous in every situation; imagine a news photographer chasing down a shot with his laptop wheeling behind him—yet I once worked with a boxing photographer who shot tethered. Some location work, such as landscape and architectural photography, or even astrophotography, can also benefit but it is generally a technique that benefits more stationary, studio-bound photographers. The products mentioned below offer ways to make tethered shooting easier, safer, or faster.
As the company name would suggest, Tether Tools makes numerous products for shooting tethered. New to the Tether Tools lineup is the TetherBoost Core Controller, which boosts and maintains power and, therefore, signal flow between computers and cameras with a USB 3.0 port. Using power from the camera and computer or with power supplied by an AC outlet or optional battery pack, the TetherBoost minimizes the chance that incompatible software or insufficient power will interrupt the flow of images from camera to computer.
The Tether Table Aero Master, available in silver or black, is made of T6 aerospace aluminum and provides a large table surface area of 22 x 16" (56 x 40 cm) on which to place your laptop, mouse, and external hard drive. While it weighs only 3.5 lb (1.6 kg), it can support up to a 30-lb load (13.5-kg). Its LAJO-4 ProBracket will mount on any ¼"-20 or 3/8" tripod mount, as well as on a light stand’s 5/8" stud or any A mounting attachment. In other words, it will mount on almost anything, and its durability is backed up with a limited lifetime warranty.
Tether Table Aeros are available in various sizes, the above Master being the largest. There is the Tether Table Aero for 17" Apple MacBook Pro, the Tether Table Aero for 15" Apple MacBook Pro, the Tether Table Aero for 13" Apple MacBook Pro, the Tether Table Aero Standard Portable Platform and the Tether Table Aero Traveler. Each is available in polished silver or non-reflective black, and has the same durability, balance, and versatile mounting bracket as the Aero Master. Each comes with a custom carrying case.
The SecureStrap for the Aero System is an easy way to secure your laptop to a Tether Table Aero. Made from non-slip, industrial-strength stretch fabric with two buckles, the SecureStrap wraps around the table and laptop to hold it in place. It can be removed completely when not needed.
The Tether Table Aero iMac Table is a bit different in that it’s designed for an Apple iMac or Cinema Display monitor and provides a bracket to attach the iMac base to the tabletop. It is 22 x 16" (56 x 40 cm), can support 30 lb (13.5 kg) and the SecureGrip Stability Bar attaches to the platform to hold the iMac securely in place. Non-slip padding on the Stability Bar and platform ensures that it does not slip. The Security Bar can be removed completely so the platform can be used for a laptop or simply as a workstation. Like the other Aero tables, the iMac Table comes with the LAJO-4 ProBracket to mount it on tripods or studio stands, and a sturdy storage case with handles.
Compatible with any of the Aero tables is the Tether Tools Aero XDC, which is a sleeve-like aluminum tray to hold an external hard drive while you shoot tethered. The XDC attaches to either side of the table and sits underneath the platform, preserving valuable surface space. Its tunnel design allows for easy access to drives and cables and provides ventilation to keep the hard drives cool. Constructed of the same T6 aluminum as the tables, and available in black and silver, the XDC is a versatile, durable accessory for the Aero tables. The Aero XDC measures 4.0 x 1.1 x 6.0" (10.1 x 2.9 x 15.2 cm) and fits one standard-size hard drive, but the Aero XDC Duo is made deeper to fit two drives, one on top of the other.
While wireless tethered shooting is absolutely possible, for speed and reliability the cabled method is still preferred. Check out the variety of available cables to find the compatibility and length you need. Also remember that the high-visibility bright orange models may help you avoid tripping on the cable and potentially damaging your gear and losing your images.
The Aero Propad is a cushioned, non-slip pad designed specifically for the various Aero tables. Placed on the table, it protects your equipment from scratches and from slipping off the platform. It is water and stain resistant, easy to clean and available in custom sizes to fit the entire surface of your specific table. The Tether Tools Peel and Paste Mouse Pad for Tether Table is an ultra-thin pad that will stick to any Tether Table surface and serve as a mouse pad for any type of mouse. The great thing about the Peel and Paste Mouse Pad is that it can peel off and be repositioned without leaving behind a sticky residue. And for the ultimate convenience, the Aero Cup Holder fits on the side of your Tether Table and has a built-in sliding track for repositioning, or to get it out of the way when you don’t need it. The retractable aspect also allows it to be stored without removing the cup holder. A non-slip, stain-resistant pad on the bottom of the cup holder keeps your glass or bottle from sliding around and possibly spilling on your equipment.
The Tether Tools Studio Vu Monitor Bracket allows large monitors, up to 80 lb (36.5 kg), to be mounted on standard 5/8" (16mm) “baby” pins, which are common on studio support equipment like c-stands and rolling stands. The bracket is also made of aerospace aluminum and fits directly on VESA-compliant 75 x 75 and 100 x 100 monitors. For larger monitors, optional adapter plates are available, to be used with the Vu Monitor Bracket. Two 5/8" receptors on the bracket allow the monitor to be mounted horizontally or vertically, and the TruVu Technology locking system secures the monitors and prevents sagging or small movements, which can affect display. The bracket also allows for 90-degree tilting for improved viewing angles, and folds flat against the monitor for easier storage and transport.
The Tether Tools StrapMoore is a simple but handy device that uses two straps to attach to a light stand or tripod and provides a third strap to hold whatever item needs to be close, yet conveniently out of the way. Use it to hold a power source, an adapter, a hard drive, or cell phone. It will hold anything up to 2 lb (907 g) and between ¼" and 3.5" in diameter. Its heavy-duty GripperElastic will attach to any pole or piece of equipment between a ¼" and 3" in diameter, and because it has two adjustable straps, it can grip oddly shaped items, as well.
The JerkStopper Camera Support is another simple but ingenious tool to keep your camera safe and your work flowing. It clips to any cable from 3.5-8.5mm in diameter and provides a small loop of slack so the cable is not dislodged from the camera by just an accidental trip or tug. And the Tether Tools JerkStopper Tethering Kit (Clip-on for the Aero) comes with the JerkStopper Camera Support and the JerkStopper Computer Support, which clips on the Aero tables and provides slack for your computer cables to prevent accidental dislodging and potential damage to your computer. The JerkStopper Supports are available in various combinations, and for anchor points, to fit your specific needs.
Keeping your iPad safe is only one of the functions of the Tether Tools Wallee iPad 2 Case. Yes, it serves to protect your iPad from bumps and drops, but Wallee’s modular design also features its patented "locking X" mechanism, which allows it to connect to the Wallee series of accessories for iPads, including the Wallee Kick, Hand Strap, Pivot and the Wallee Connect. The Wallee Connect is a lightweight aluminum bracket that connects to the Wallee iPod Case and can then be mounted on a ¼"-20 tripod head, 3/8" mount, 5/8" studio pin, or an Arca-style mount. As versatile as the LAJO-4 pro Bracket, the Wallee Connect lets you easily mount your iPad vertically or horizontally on almost any piece of photo support equipment, and use it for tethered shooting.
Savage Tech Table
Savage also makes platform tables for tethered shooting, and they’re appropriately called “Air Flow” because they are built with ventilation slots to disperse the heat from a laptop computer. The 14 x 16" Air Flow Tech Table is made from scratch-resistant aluminum and features 45 ventilation slots and a matte-black (non-reflecting) finish. Thermal conduction draws heat away from your laptop, offering better performance and longer working time. A touch-fastened strap is included to keep your laptop from sliding, and the attached universal mount plate mounts to any standard light stand or tripod. Like the Tether Tools table, a custom-sized storage and carry bag is included.
Air Flow Tech tables are also available in a 15.75 x 18.5" model and their modular “snap-in” design, combined with the ventilation slots, encourages the easy attachment of accessories, such as the Hard Drive & Item Storage Tray and the Writing Platform. The Hard Drive Tray measures 4.5 x 5.5 x 8" (11.4 x 13.9 x 20.3 cm) and hangs conveniently below the table. It provides a backstop so items don’t fall out of the tray, but access to cables is maintained. The Writing Platform hooks into a ventilation slot for stability and covers all of the slots for a smooth surface, converting the Air Flow table into a firm writing platform that can be leaned on and adjusted for height if necessary. The Savage Cable Hook is another customization accessory to prevent mishaps and equipment damage while shooting tethered. It simply attaches to a ventilation slot and hangs to the side of the table, offering a wide hook on which to hang looped cables. Other accessories that fit the Air Flow tables are the Utility Hook and Dual Drink/Lens Holder, which provides two wide holes for safe and easy access to lenses, water bottles, or whatever items you want handy but not in the way.
Tabelz offers the Black Primary Table as the foundation for a system of items to improve tethered shooting whether in-studio or on location. They are available in three sizes, to fit 13" laptops, and laptops up to 15.6" and 17" wide. Made of thin, lightweight aluminum, they can support up to 50 lb (22.6 kg) of equipment, and their Ultra Grip surface eliminates the need for fastening straps or clamps. Mounting for both ¼"-20 and 3/8" screws allows for versatile placement on top of light stands, tripods, and various heads. Front protection pads provide extra security and stability for your laptop, and two accessory slots allow the convenient attachment of accessory items, such as the ST60 Side Table. The ST60 Side Table slides easily into either of the bottom slots on the Primary Table and provides 6.0 x 6.0" (15.2 x 15.2 cm) of additional space to place hard drives, lenses, remotes and, of course, a mouse. Made from aluminum with an Ultra-Grip, non-reflective surface, items won’t slide off, and a custom-sized mouse pad is included for easier mouse operation.
The Tabelz TS1 Accessory Arm is an innovative accessory for the Primary Table, which attaches to the table’s accessory slot and provides placement and an attachment knob for a ball head or any item that will fit into its 3/8" male screw mount. With a ball head attached to your table, you can place a camera, a secondary monitor, a light source or any item that serves your task. The Accessory Arm can be attached facing down for a lower angle for your camera or light and without utilizing the attachment knob; the arm provides a hole in which items can be placed or cables can be hooked.
And of course, what kit is considered complete without a cup holder? Not the Tabelz system, which offers the CH1 Cup Holder Kit. The CH1 attaches firmly into the slots on the bottom of the Tabelz Primary table and is flat for stacked storage with the table top. An aluminum cup insert with anodized satin finish cleans easily and can also be used to hold cell phones, keys, and most assuredly, lenses. With the cup insert removed, larger tapered cups can slide into the holder, or it can be used to keep cables out of the way. Like all elements of the Tabelz Tethering table system, the cup holder is made from premium-quality aluminum with a black, non-reflective coating.
The Gitzo G-065 Monitor Platform is a well built and versatile 13 x 15.7" rotating platform that attaches easily to a tripod via a 3/8"-16 thread on the platform bottom. It serves to place your laptop securely while shooting and, of course, can be used as a rest for a wide-range of accessories. The very durable Manfrotto 131DDB Tripod Accessory Arm for Four Heads will turn any tripod into a stand for your laptop and can mount a tripod head and camera, as well. It offers a total four 3/8"-38 threads. The Vanguard Multi-Mount 6 Tripod Utility Bar is a similar accessory that allows you to mount your camera and a platform for your laptop on the same tripod. Finally, check out the full spectrum of FireWire and USB cables and Thunderbolt adapters to link your camera to computer for successful tethered shooting.