Martin Evening is author of the The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers (ISBN 0-321-55561-9). For more information about the Lightroom 3 beta, visit http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/.
It is now possible to setup Lightroom to work directly in tethered shooting mode (Figure 1). This means that photographs shot on the camera can be brought quickly into Lightroom, bypassing the need to import the photos from the card. Tethered shooting via Lightroom also allows clients to see the images appear as previews in the content area as you shoot (if you think this will help). I also find tethered shooting can be useful on model castings because it allows me to individually update the keywords or captions right after each photo has been shot.
Figure 1 This shows the computer setup that I normally use when shooting in tethered mode in the studio using the Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III camera.
Connecting the Camera to the Computer
To shoot in tethered mode you obviously need to be able to connect your camera to the computer. Ideally, you want the fastest connection possible. Most professional digital SLRs offer either a FireWire (IEEE 1394) or a USB 2.0 connection and these should offer a fast enough interface and buffer speed so that you can import the capture files at about the same speed as you can with a fast camera memory card, or in some cases quicker. The only downside is that you must have your camera connected to the computer via the appropriate cable, and this can restrict the amount of freedom you have to move about without pulling the cable out, or worse still, pull a laptop computer off the table!
Another option is to shoot wirelessly. At this time of writing, wireless units are available for some digital SLR cameras, and these will allow you to transmit images directly from the camera to a base station linked to the computer. Wireless shooting offers you the freedom, up to a certain distance, to move about without the restrictions of a tethered cable. But the current data transmission speeds with some cameras are a lot slower than those you can expect from a FireWire or USB 2.0 connection. Rapid shooting via a wireless connection can certainly work well if you are shooting in JPEG mode, but not if you intend shooting raw files only. Of course, that may all change in the future. For example, with Nikon equipment, you can shoot wirelessly via PTP/IP or FTP. It appears so far that PTP/IP is better and should rival FireWire, since PTP/IP is able to transfer files much faster due to the compression that’s built into the transmission.