Sunday, February 3, 2013

Guide to Tethering your Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III

I recently wrote up some tethering instructions for the students in my studio photography class. I shoot tethered in the studio all the time, so for me it's second nature. But for my students, it can all be a little confusing, especially if you haven't tested all the different variations of software you need and know the limitations of each combination.

So I wrote up a cheat sheet for the most common setup we use in class. I thought I'd share it here in case it helps others.

Setup: For the Canon 5D Mark 2 or Mark 3 camera tethered to an Apple Mac OSX computer.  WITH live view shooting support. If you don't need live view support on the computer, then there is an easier setup (described below).

Description: There are two common ways to tether the 5D2 or 5D3, one way is a bit more complex but allows you to use Live View on the computer.  This method is useful for still life shooting because you can compose the scene and adjust the camera position while viewing on a large computer screen (instead of through the viewfinder or using the small screen on the back of the camera).

Concept: The general concept is to copy the files from the camera to the computer, viewing the photos immediately.  In this setup we use Canon's EOS Utility to do the copying, and Adobe Lightroom to do the viewing.

Required Software: Canon EOS Utility and a viewing program, like Adobe Lightroom. Canon EOS Utility is used to copy the files from the camera to the computer whilst one is shooting. It also allows the Live View functionality on the computer. Adobe Lightroom is necessary to view the images in an organized way. One thing about Lightroom is that your images need to be imported into the Lightroom "catalog" for viewing. I'll explain this further below.

Pre-Requisites: Lightroom needs to be installed and the Auto Import feature needs to be enabled.  The Auto Import feature "imports" images into the Lightroom "catalog" for viewing.  This feature basically keeps an eye on a single (empty) folder.  When it detects a new image in that folder, it will move it to a target folder that you specify.  On my computer, I have an empty folder called "To Autoimport" and another folder called "Autoimported."  I set Lightroom to watch the "To Autoimport" folder, and if any files show up, it will move them to the "Autoimported" folder and simultaneously import the files into the Lightroom catalog.

The idea here is to set the camera to immediately copy the files that are being shot to the "To Autoimport" folder. Then Lightroom sees the files and moves them into the current Lightroom catalog (the "Autoimported" folder) so that you can view them while you shoot.

Since we are using EOS Utility to do the real-time copying, we need to set that up to put the files from the camera into the "To Autoimport" folder. There is an option called "Destination Folder" in EOS Utility where you can specify the folder. Depending on the version of EOS Utility there are some other options you may want to set also, like the ability to save on the camera's card as well as the computer, and to sync the live view functionality between the camera and computer (so that when you press the live view button on the camera, the computer shows the live view display also).

Shooting with Live View: If you want to use Live View on the computer, switch to the EOS Utility software and (after you choose the "Camera settings/Remote shooting" option), click on the Live View button (in EOS Utility). If you have the software set to synchronize live view display with the camera, then you can also press the live view button the camera to enter live view mode on the computer. You may resize the screen to make the Live View image larger. (This is a benefit to using a Canon system, as the Nikon software Capture NX2 does not allow a large live view screen. Please fix this, Nikon!)

Shooting without Live View: Once you have the software set up correctly, when you are ready to shoot, run the EOS Utility program and choose the "Camera settings/Remote shooting" option to ready the software for shooting.  Then open Lightroom to the "Autoimported" folder.  As you shoot, the images should appear in Lightroom.

Alternative method to shoot without Live View: If you use a program like Lightroom, and you don't need live view on the computer at all, you can shoot directly into Lightroom (thus eliminating the need to use EOS Utility). Just initiate Lightroom for tethered capture, it should recognize your camera, then shoot away.


1. In Live View, you see a black screen instead of your subject:  Ensure that, under Live View settings, the Exposure Simulation mode is OFF.

2. The camera won't fire, or the strobe won't fire:  Check that the Silent Shooting option is set to OFF.

3. EOS Utility won't work correctly:  EOS Utility has a lot of versions, you need to ensure that the version you have works with your camera.  For instance, older versions won't work with the new Canon 5D Mark 3.  Or some versions are buggy and will crash when used with the 5D Mark 3.

4. Lightroom won't display the images:  Updated versions of Lightroom 3 will process 5D Mark 2 files correctly, but you need an updated version of Lightroom 4 for 5D Mark 3 files.  Check that the Lightroom version is appropriate for your camera.

Other Variations for Tethered Capture:

There are many other combinations for tethered shooting. If you are working with a Nikon system and you want live view functionality on the computer, you will need to purchase a copy of Nikon's Capture NX2 software. This software is akin to Canon's EOS Utility.

Of course you can also shoot tethered in Capture One Pro. This is the preferred way (and as far as I know, the only way) of capturing if you make on-the-fly adjustments to your image and need the settings retained for the next capture (like crop settings, for instance). I have heard that the newest version of Capture One Pro (version 7) has live view support for some DSLRs. But I have not had a chance to work with it yet, so I'm not sure which cameras it supports. And I cannot seem to find a list of Live View supported cameras anywhere.

And of course if you shoot Hasselblad, you're likely shooting tethered into Phocus. Likewise Capture One Pro if you're shooting a Phase One or Leaf back, or you're shooting at high speed as with fashion or lifestyle photography.

Good luck! I hope this guide can help you sort out your tethered capture needs.


  1. Hallo! Nice Post !!

    So in the´s possible to Work with Capture One + Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7 an a Canon 5D Mark III, without any Problem ?

  2. I don't know because I've never used the WFT-E7.

  3. Here's a question somewhat from left field. Given that the camera is set up to send live view to the computer, could it send the same to an LCD projector such that a large class could see how the scene is being composed.

  4. That shouldn't be a problem. You could either plug the camera directly into the projector, since it has an HDMI connection. Or you could connect the projector to the computer.

  5. Great information, John, I really appreciate you taking the time and your willingness to share.

  6. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. 5d mii, capture one pro trial. .live view not working, why?

  9. Thank you! This is the first place I've found that explains how to troubleshoot Live View by turning off Exposure Simulation.

  10. So, if you have a TV/monitor with HDMI can the 5D MkIII be directly connected to the monitor without having to connect through a computer?
    Thank you

  11. So, if you have a TV/monitor with HDMI can the 5D MkIII be directly connected to the monitor without having to connect through a computer?
    Thank you