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Lesson 6 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

6. Tethering

Tethering allows your camera to instantly talk to your computer for review during the shoot. In this lesson, learn how tethering can boost your workflow and can help you easily pre-process your images during the shoot.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introduction to The Environmental Portrait


Environmental Portrait Purpose


Personal Work


Find Your Process




Purpose For Action Editorial


Prepare for Shoot


Lesson Info


I wanna introduce you guys to tethering, I'm gonna be speaking about it quite a bit. So I wanna familiarize everybody with what it is for those who don't know, and a little bit about what you need to do it. We'll go over all the equipment and everything as we get started. I'm actually photographing our basketball player here tethered, and you'll see that with the other shoot. Tethering is simply this, it's directly connecting your camera to your computer or tablet to instantly review and process the images. It gives you the ability to review and refine your images during the shoot. And even more importantly sometimes, it allows clients and subjects to view the images instantly for feedback and approval. What I mean by all this is tethering is just that. I use Capture One, some people use Lightroom, there's all these different softwares you can use. I think, for me personally, I think Capture One's probably the best for tethering, its great interface, the image quality is amazing, and t...

he way they just have it all set up works. Like I said I've been using it for 14 years as raw processing software, but I've been using it the last couple years to tether almost all of my shoots because I love that instant feedback. When I'm shooting, everybody has different style, but I shoot knowing that there's gonna be post work involved. So I'm not a photojournalist, I know what's on the camera isn't gonna be what's sent out to the world. I know that there's some leeway because I'm using studio strobes. There's things that aren't gonna appear in the photos, whether they're darker shadows that I know can be brought back, whether it's getting rid of distracting elements in the background using lighting to kind of make those things in the background just disappear. Or if I know like that's gonna be clone stamped out later, or cropped or whatever, I know these things when I shoot. So I can already kind of pre-process the images shooting tethered, I can bring up that shadow detail, I can add the blue to the shadows through the color balance feature in Capture One. I can do all these things and then it gives me an idea of, you know, do I need to tweak the light knowing my process, and at the same time it makes the images just look a little bit better and more polished right up front. And for me, being able to show the subject I'm shooting, whether it's a personal shoot, or whether I'm able to show a client who is holding an iPad using the Capture One Pilot app in the other room, they're getting instant feedback and being able to see the images to give me feedback. And it gives me confidence knowing like, I ran a curve on this image so it's already got a little extra pop, I did the different saturation and color balance that I want, so it's looking closer to my vision than if I just showed him the back of the camera with that raw image. That's the importance of tethering for me. And if something's going wrong I can see it on a much larger screen using my laptop, than I can looking at the small screen on the back of my camera. Hopefully we get to that point where Bluetooth tethering is even more refined than it is right now. I know I've had some issues, I use a Nikon and we definitely do all the tethering plugged in with a Tether Tools cable, but hopefully we get to that day, now with newer cameras having 50 megapixels or so and these files being huge it's even harder to send the files through wifi and Bluetooth, but hopefully there's some day where you can just shoot away and freely know your images are going right to the computer and not have to worry about all that. In the meantime I have a pretty reliable setup. I'll show you all the troubleshooting of what can go wrong with tethering. You know with the cable coming unplugged and you don't know it, keep everything on a card. Some tools you can use, some little shortcuts that are really cheap to keep everything connected. And what to do when things do go wrong. We'll kind of go over all the aspects of tethering. Like I said I use PhaseOne Capture One Pro, it allows me to pre-process the images, and allows me to control the exposure, shadow/highlight, control all that, and the color along with a lot of other aspects from cropping to being able to zoom in and check for sharpness and all of that type of stuff. The version I use right now is Capture One 11, so it's the newest one. They're always coming out with new versions which is a good and bad thing. Bad because you always need to update, but at the same time it's good because they're adding new features. They just started adding in more layers and masking so you can actually take a raw file, adjust exposure on different layers for different elements within the photo, you can even change coloration and things like that. We're gonna go over all that once we're actually shooting, but what I wanna do now is give you just one quick intro to the interface of Capture One because we're gonna be shooting live in the next segment, and I wanna take time now before we're actually shooting so you can get an idea of when I'm making adjustments, what it is I'm doing so it makes a little more sense. If we can switch over to my computer here, I have Capture One open, and I wanna show you a raw image and more of a processed image approach of what it is that I'm doing. So here's Capture One 11, just a quick walkthrough here. This is the general interface, this is a shoot obviously. This shot looks familiar because I showed it to you earlier. This is just the raw image but it is processed. So what I wanna do is show you a little bit about my processes and how it got to this point, but also introduce you to the navigation and everything within Capture One. Within Capture One we have a toolbar up here, that is the different menus. We have our Library, so this is just like using Finder on a Mac or any type of folder structure. I guess to back up a little bit, with Capture One you can either use Sessions or Catalogs. Catalogs is more of an all-encompassing image sorting and all that, I like to use Sessions because each shoot I do I like to keep separate, whether they're on different hard drives or different spaces I just like to keep everything independent, and session works better for me. I'm sure there's tons of people out there who could explain why Catalogs is great for that setup too, but again there's a reason why the first thing you need to do is decide whether you wanna do Sessions or Catalogs, and I use Sessions. Once I make a new Session, which we'll actually do that for the shoot coming up, I then have all these folders in Capture One, and the one that all the tethering goes to is my Capture folder. So again if you wanted to work on a different shoot you could just go to another folder on your computer, just like you would on Finder, and find those files, and as soon as you click it it opens all the raws into thumbnails here on the right. The other menu items up here are, the camera icon here is actually used for capture, so that's what you're gonna use for tethering. Once you have a camera hooked up you can actually fire the shutter from the computer, you can change your white balance, your shutter speed, all that from the computer. You can mess with your file naming and all that stuff, and we'll do that once we're shooting. This tab here is for all of your color needs. So whether it's the white balance, tint, color balance, any of that type of stuff you do that there. This is for exposure, highlight and shadow recovery, all that type of stuff, you see there's a histogram at the top. One of the newer features to Capture One that I don't use yet, because I haven't had a chance to play with it is Style. So they actually started adding film mimicking type filters and things like that. So you can have a lot of different styles, you'll see there's different color effects, black and white. There's also user styles, so you can purchase more, whether they're grainy or clean you'll see there's a lot of you know, Kodachrome, Polaroid, all these different filters that are adjustable to fit. Again I don't use those yet in here, I use them in a different program, but it's just 'cause I haven't had time to experiment. So that's a new feature. One of the tabs I use the most is this Local Adjustments. You can actually customize the entire software to fit, so I made this toolbar, is a combination as you'll see. I'm gonna close these up real quick so you can get a quick look. I have my layers, I have white balance, exposure, my shadow and highlight recovery, my color balance, my levels, my curve, and my color editor all in one spot. So that way I'm not having to constantly click around within the software to find the other features I wanna use. During a shoot I'll usually open white balance, exposure, high dynamic range, that's for the shadow and highlight recovery, and color balance, and then I adjust those things on the fly and I know everything is gonna be right here, so if I'm shooting I don't have to ignore the subject or spend too much time on the computer, I can make quick adjustments. The other tabs up here are your process. This is, you know, you can set up all the parameters of processing out JPEGs, TIFF files, whatever you want. You can mess with the resolution, the scale of the image, anything you wanna do there, that will process out to the next file you're gonna work on. And then this is your queue, so if you start processing a bunch of files this will let you know how much time's left and where you're at. And then your history is the files that have previously processed. And the last tab I have open is the Info, so if you click on a photo you can add different annotations, you can keyword it, have a keyword library. I don't do a lot of that stuff, but a lot of photographers love those features. And it also has the metadata, this is one I go into because it'll let me remember "Oh what was the native white balance you did for this shoot? Oh 5560 kelvin. What was the shutter speed to let the ambient light in, if I have another situation? Oh it was 180th of a second at F/8 at ISO 400, with a 50 millimeter." So it just lets me know all these things, pretty basic information but for me it's handy to have that, and that's why I keep that tab open. If you go to Customize Toolbar, these are all the tools that you can possibly have in your toolbar. You can see I have a much abbreviated version of that. And when you get Capture One set up the way you want, you just go up to Window, Workspace, and you save that workspace so that way every time you open Capture One, it's set up this way. It's similar to how you have your Photoshop aligned to how you like it. That's the basics of the menu of Capture One, and I'll go over one quick image, so you can see what I do. This is the final image, well almost the final image, you'll probably notice there was no glare on the glass in the image I showed you earlier. That's something you can't really do in Capture One, that's a Photoshop deal. But this image, it looks pretty good right there, but I wanna show you what it looked like, if I were only showing it to you on the back of the camera completely raw. Look at that. So all of the sudden everything is so much darker. But by shooting tethered, I was able to start going through and you'll see I have the high dynamic range slider open here. This is why this shoot was tricky, we have a butcher wearing all white, but he's on a wall that is almost all in shadow, we have to balance out the specularity of these little highlights from the lamp and the lights within the case, because I didn't wanna just totally overpower those with strobes and make 'em go dark. I liked the ambiance they add to the room and the feeling with this warmth, you know that warm light's hitting his shoulder, those are what's actually causing the highlights on the meat within the case. So I knew that this shot needed to be underexposed as a whole, so the histogram's probably all the way over to the left with these little hot spots on his shirt. But I also couldn't over-light it, because that white shirt. So knowing that, I always start with one light at a time. I like to work in layers, so I setup my one light. I like to match the lighting setup with what's currently in a room, and we'll talk about that later. So here we have these little specular lights, and it's very small, it's very dim in the store, so I thought alright we need a controlled light source that meets the same specularity as those lights. So I used a Magnum Reflector with a grid on it to control the light spill, and then I put a diffusion sock on it to knock some of that edge off. So that's my main light, just out of the frame up to the left, and that's lighting him, and that grid was necessary or else it was just lighting up this entire case. So knowing that I set up my one light. And then my second light, to give a little bit of fill to the scene, was a SoftLighter umbrella up directly above the camera. The ceiling in this place was actually white foam tile, so I just blasted that umbrella into the ceiling and let it naturally spill down and give a little bit of fill to the scene. My first move within Capture One while tethering after getting a test frame, will be to start opening up the shadows. And here you can see, if we open it all the way, that detail's all there, it's gone. I use a Nikon D810, it's got a lot of dynamic range, it has a huge file, so knowing that detail's there I can bring those shadows back up. And now to control his shirt, I want it to be white, but I don't want it to be blown out. That detail's there as well. And you can always take the dropper and go over, so we can go to the brightest point of his shirt and see, even though it looked really bright, that's only 212, 217 as far as RGB, where 255 is totally blown out. So I know the detail's there, but I don't want it any brighter in camera. Again we're bringing that slider up. And as I go through the next thing I'll mess with is my white balance. I'm shooting with studio strobes for the most part, we are balancing with ambient light but he's basically lit by my strobes which are about 5500 kelvin. We're at 5570, that's fine, so I'm leaving the white balance. The next thing I like to do is skin tone. So under color editor tab, you have three tabs. Basic, advanced, and skin tone. And what's cool about this is you can take this dropper, we can zoom in on Ken here, let that render, and we can take the dropper and just pull skin tone. So we'll just 'em off of, you know upper nose area where there's a general idea of what it'll look like. And now we can expand, so that dropper selected an area of color that matches his skin tones. I always expand it just a little bit more in case there's a cast or area in shadow that might be a little darker or lighter. And now what we have is an area of skin tone selected, so we can down to our sliders and we can adjust the hue. If you adjust the hue to the left it'll actually add more red. If you adjust it to the right, it'll add more green or take away red. So I always take the hue and I hate too much red in my skin tones, so I adjust it to the right and add more green. And then I also desaturate. I don't wanna desaturate the entire image, just the skin tones a little bit. So we're gonna drag that slider off just a few points, bring a little bit of that redness back. And any time you wanna see before or after you can just click and reset the layer by hitting this back arrow. And it's very subtle but I notice it. And then if you wanna go back, Undo Reset Adjustments, and your settings are back. So that's one of the things I do, and that'll apply to every image going forward if you're tethering, if you do it to the first image it'll apply those settings to every additional image. We'll zoom back out. The next thing I would do just to get an idea of color, is I'll go to color balance. This is a pretty cool feature in that it has a three way color wheel. Three color wheels, one for shadow, one for mid-tones, and one for highlights. I love to have a little cooler shadows in my images so on the color wheel we'll drag the tab down to blue, and then this is the amount of blue. So you'll see as I adjust this slider up it's gonna add more blue to the shadows, we'll go all the way up so you can see. That's maximum blue shadows, that's a little too much. I'll go somewhere in here in the mid-range, and it'll just add blue to our shadows. Then I like to warm up the mid-tones just a little bit to counteract that. So we'll add, you know sometimes a little bit of orange or yellow, sometimes it's green depending on what we're going for. So we'll add a little bit of that warmth back to the mid-tones, and because he's wearing white and I wanna keep it white, I'm gonna leave the highlights alone 'cause that's basically the only highlights in the shot. So I'm not gonna add any color there. The other adjustment slider you'll see is actually the brightness of each of those layers, so you can darken the shadows, look at that right here. And that is adding that color, and darkening or brightening it. Same with the mid-tones, you can see where your mid-tones are at whether you wanna darken 'em, lighten, whatever. Generally I don't touch those, I try and nail that with the exposure and highlight and shadow control. But that's basically all I do when I'm shooting. So once I'll take a test frame, we'll get all the lighting setup, I'll do that to the first shot, and then as I shoot it applies those settings to every other photo within that set. And until you start changing lighting or location, your photos are all gonna have that more polished look. If you wanna see a before and after you can go up to Image, and New Variant. It'll actually make another image, so you can see right there, there's what it would look like if I only had the back of my camera, but being able to see it tethered and have that feedback, it's awesome because I know what detail's there, I know what the final product could look like, and it gives me confidence. Plus if I'm showing Ken here the picture of him holding the sausage, he's like "Oh yeah that looks pretty sharp." Where if he saw this he'd be like "I think it looks a little dark." So I know what I want it to look like but being able to see it and show people is a great feature. That's kind of the introduction, we'll go back to the keynote for one last slide and any questions you guys might have about environmental portraits, personal work, or the basics of tethering. So, any questions? I know some portrait and headshot photographers utilize tethering to get out from behind their camera and connect, do you do that with your environmental portraits as well? Oh yeah. So one of the things about tethering, I do use it for review a lot. But at the same time, one thing I do when shooting and you'll see that in the shoots, is I like to get all the technical aspects set up beforehand. The first thing I do is build the frame in the camera. The second thing I do is start lighting it, and this is before the subject's ever there. I might be standing in, I might have an assistant stand in. The next thing I do is run these tests on my assistant or the test frame, and then that way when the subject's in the frame we can just have a conversation. I know everything's looking good on the computer 'cause we've already dialed in these technical aspects. I know I repeat this later, you'll see in another chapter, but one of the things that's important to me is if I'm photographing you, you're a photographer so you know how it works, if I'm photographing somebody who has no idea about the technical process, and all of the sudden I'm like "Uh hold on", and I start messing with my aperture or the lights, for one not everybody's comfortable in front of the camera, and at the same time they might be thinking "Oh what did I do did I screw this up? Is my hair okay?", so they start getting self conscious because I took my attention off them as a subject and I went to all these other details. So I like to get all that stuff set up, including the tethering, and then that way, again like you said, I can be one-on-one and present with the subject to make them feel comfortable. And that's what drives that personality out of the shoot, if you're so worried about details that you're telling them what to do but not listening to any of their feedback, it gets a little awkward and you're not gonna get the photos you want. So tethering is just another aspect that helps me get all those details set up beforehand, so I don't have to deal with it when I'm shooting.

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience for this class and absolutely loved it. Watching Dan create amazing images from start to finish in front of us was so inspiring. I've learned so much from this class. It actually gave me the confidence to start playing with lights in my studio. It was really useful to see how he sets his lights and how he can easily mix ambient light with artificial. I also love how he focuses on getting the image right in the camera to only do light edits after. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about lighting, shooting tethered and editing efficiently!

a Creativelive Student

I love this guy! I so appreciate his honesty while he is explaining his thought process, admitting that his “shoulda/coulda/woulda’s” - which I experience ALL the time. I am now going to dust off my light meter and start using it on location as I’m convinced that it works now that I’ve seen Dan’s class. I enjoyed the detailed way he sets up each light individually, checking to make sure it adds the amount and quality of light he wants. Definitely recommend this class - especially for those people who have experience using studio lights and want to see how they can be used to get specific results. Dan’s clear, simple explanations, his unabashed humility, and his sense of humor made this a truly enjoyable way to spend my time learning his methods.

a Creativelive Student

Dan is an excellent instructor! He's completely transparent with his thought processes, from technical to creative. He doesn't waste time horsing around or getting off topic, but is structured and sticks to his outline. Every minute watched is on topic, and is understandable. He's sincere and likable. The course is great for anyone interested in this genre!

Student Work