David Saffir: Shooting Tethered With the SpyderCUBE
May 2013 21

In the first post in this series, I mentioned the importance of “getting it right in the camera”. Well, how about the option of “getting it right in the computer”, too?

Many of us are taking advantage of shooting with the camera connected with a cable or wireless device to a desktop or laptop computer. Often referred to as shooting “tethered”, this offers several advantages. Images are immediately transferred to the computer, and stored on its hard drive. It’s also possible to create a system whereby incoming images are automatically backed up to a second storage device for safety. In fact, in many ways, images can be processed as they are imported from the camera.

Shooting tethered provides an opportunity to see images on a much larger display – provided this is properly calibrated; color accuracy, color casts, important points of focus, and the like are much easier to see and deal with on-location. One can use the tools provided with many software applications (Adobe’s ACR or Lightroom and Phase One’s Capture One, among them) to begin image processing “on-the-fly”, saving time and effort in post-production. Such tools are quite similar to learn and use.

If there is a client or art director present, this process/preview setup can be a great tool for building rapport and trust – the client sees the images as they are created, examining framing/cropping, foreground and background elements, color accuracy, lighting, and more.

Here’s an example of a basic tethered studio setup. Many DSLRs and nearly all digital medium-format cameras can be operated tethered in this manner, provided appropriate software is used. (Here’s a tip: test the cable you plan to use before you go to the photo shoot. Many of these cables are vulnerable to wear and tear in the field. Carrying a spare is a good idea!).

sample photo setup

 Note that the laptop is set up for use by an assistant or art director. It’s quite easy to turn the screen so it’s visible to the photographer, as well.

Next, I’ll discuss just one of the ways an image can be processed after the initial shot, and how this processing can be applied to all subsequent, appropriate shots as they come from the camera and into the software.

Here’s an example from a photo shoot I recently completed at a hospital. As in many of these facilities, overhead lighting consists of a mix of fluorescent bulbs, which generally are not photography-friendly. They impart a greenish color-cast, among other weaknesses.

SpyderCube Color Balancing

 Note that I’ve placed a SpyderCUBE front and center.

Figure 2 is a screen shot from Capture One Pro, which shows thumbnails from the opening shot, and a series of subsequent captures. (workflow would be very similar in other applications, including Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom)

All of the images shown have a green color-cast, or tint, cause by the overhead lighting in use in this hospital. One can correct these using either of the following methods:

First, Capture One can be set up so that edits to the first image in a series from the main control panel, are applied to subsequent images captured in that set. In other words: if I correct white balance for shot number 1, the shots following it will have the same color balance adjustments applied automatically.

In figure 3, I’ve used the white/gray balance eyedropper, outlined in red (sounds familiar, right?) and clicked on the gray area on the SpyderCUBE. As the room is close to evenly lit, I can choose either gray face for color balancing.

When one face on the SpyderCUBE is brighter than the other, it’s indicating where the primary light source is coming from. Use the brighter side of the SpyderCUBE for your correction to balance to the primary light. As you go forward, new images will be adjusted accordingly.

If the entire photo shoot proceeds without this setup, or if you captured to a flash card and then imported images into the software application, you can apply corrections from the first shot to all others in the series on-site or in post-production.

First, left click once on the image that has been color-corrected – the one that you plan to use as a source for adjustments to other images in this set.

In the next screen shot, click on the icon (outlined in red on the left, in figure 4) that activates the Adjustment Clipboard. This can copy the adjustments from the current image – which can then be applied to other images in the set en-masse.

adjustment clipboard screenshot

The “copy” button has also been outlined in red – this will copy the white balance setting to the clipboard for later use.

final step

Next, select all remaining images to be corrected in the thumbnail library or filmstrip. Re-activate the Adjustment Clipboard, and click “apply”. Voila! All the images are now corrected to the same state as the first.

David Saffir is a commercial and fine art photographer and printmaker, located in Southern California, and a well-known speaker at workshops and conferences across the US.