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.

26 thoughts on “Shooting tethered with Canon gear

  1. Do you need to have Lightroom or is there software built into the camera that you can use to shoot like this?

    1. It depends on the generation and type of cameras. Most SLR’s do not, but some of the newer consumer grade ones do. Most Point and Shoots do, but anything you have in camera will not compare to any stand alone photo editor.

  2. Love the article! I am actually taking classes right now on portrait photography and have thought this would be the way to go. I was starting to wonder if my camera could do it and now I know I can. Thanks very much! Keep up the great Blog!!


  3. Aubrey Stone says:

    I’ll admit my ignorance. I don’t know what URI is let alone what my URI is. Upper Respiratory Infection?

    Good description of the tethered process, Thanks for all the details. It gives me the encouragement to try it with my T3i and laptop.

    Thanks so much,

  4. Why not deal with the laptop and camera in a more direct fashion ? Using a Manfrotto 131DD Double Head Support (#3153) tripod arm with two clamps – one holds the tripod head which holds the camera, the other clamp holds a Gitzo G065 13 x 15.5-Inch Monitor Platform platter that holds the laptop…. Now the laptop and camera are close together but separate.

    Now you’v spent about $ 180 and you are good to go….



    1. That is definitely an option for hardware setup. One I’ve used is the Tether Tools table. It dovetails nicely…but hardware discussions are rather tangential to a post about shooting Canon EOS Tethered capture software either in DPP or Lightroom…

  5. worked like a charm. love it and you are right. my 23 inch monitor is way better than the 3 inch screen.

  6. I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark ll and I have tried using LR many times and it still crashes on OS 10.6.8. I am using LR 3.3 and everything is up to date. I am just going to stick to the Canon Software.

  7. Hi Jason,

    Nice work.I shoot tethering with a 5D MkII but have experienced immense problems.The system crashes or freezes very very often.I only use Canon’s software and a mac OSX 10.6.8 which I understand Canon suggests it experiences problems?

    Should I opt for another software such as the Capture 1?

    Many thanks

  8. Michael Rose says:

    Hi there, not sure if this is a place to ask questions but, with OS X Lion support for Rosetta (and therefore PowerPC) apps has been removed. Any idea if there is a way to run EOS Capture Utility or something that’ll do the same?

    1. I’m not on Lion so could not speak to this specifically, but believe the Canon Utilities still work on the mac natively. Did you check the Canon website for a software update?

  9. StrangeRover says:

    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.

  10. 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.


  11. 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.

    1. 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: http://www.canonblogger.com/2009/04/14/cactus-trigger-zebra-oh-my/

  12. 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…

  13. 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.

    1. Thinking of shooting tethered for the 1st time early next year myself. Also printing onsite as well. Can you tell me the length of time from camera click to finished print? And were you able to shoot other images as the print was being made?
      Thanks, Jim

      1. Not sure I understand what you mean about length of time to finished print. From capture to computer save is pretty much instant, but to print depends on how much post production editing you do, what kind of printer you send to, the printers ppm rate, whether you print on glossy, matte, luster, and at what dpi rate. Color versus black and white also factor in…too many variables here to answer.

  14. 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.

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