When you’re shooting product photography or other stuff in studio being able to see what you’ve just shot in the program you are actually going to edit your image in is a huge help to efficiency by taking away a lot of the to and fro between camera, card reader and computer. I used to shoot tethered in Lightroom with Nikon D700, so when I moved to Olympus it was something I missed having quite a lot. I am still not sure why Adobe don’t offer tethering for camera brands other than Nikon and Canon, but with the free Olympus Capture (OC) app it actually doesn’t matter anymore because as an Olympus E-M1 shooter you actually get much more control by using their app than you would from using Lightroom directly.
I’m going to walk you through some of the features of the Olympus Capture app and explain how I use it to shoot tethered.
Getting It Working
The setup of the system is very simple. All you do once you have the USB cable plugged into the camera is open the app. The app will tell you whether or not you have a camera attached and whether the camera is in the tethered shooting mode. To put the E-M1 in the tethered shooting mode you need to go into the E-M1’s custom menu D and right at the bottom of that category you will find an item called USB mode. Set that to the icon that looks like a camera connected to a PC and you should be good to go. You’ll know its working when you see the live view of the E-M1 on your PC/Mac screen.
There are some in-app options you can adjust that will give you control over where the images are going to be stored, either on the camera or immediately transferred to a location on the computer. This has some interesting implications that I will get to a bit later. You can change the file names too if you wish.
There are also some display settings you may wish to adjust, such as if you are using multiple monitors you can display the app full screen in a designated monitor. It’s unlikely that I am going to install a larger monitor on a set, but the option is there if I want to. Actually, what I would probably do if I was shooting portraits and wanted the sitter to see their shot while they are on set and immediately after it has been taken is mirror the MacBook screen to my Apple TV and put that somewhere near the camera. A bit of a palava to set up, but it can be very helpful in directing people if they can see the frame you’re about to shoot before you shoot it.
Setting up olympus Capture is a lot easier than getting the wifi to work on the Olympus Image Share app!
The Graphical User Interface
When it’s opened OC brings up 4 distinct windows and this is where I think there are some issues with the design. There are two small windows and 2 large windows. The two large windows are dedicated to the live view and the camera controls. In default arrangement they are as shown in the screenshot below, with the settings on the right and the large live view on the left. You can re-size the live view window but you can’t re-size the setting window.
screenshot showing the system when it first connects - note the two small floating windows for Rec View and Histogram
The other two windows are a live histogram and a Rec view window. The histogram window I have no use for when shooting tethered for a flash lit set because it’s displaying what it sees before the flashes fire, which makes it fairly useless in that situation. I keep it closed. I suppose if you are working with ambient lighting it would be useful if you are using it for exposure assistance, but to my mind if you’re already seeing the image on the monitor in live view you don’t really need the histogram. That’s really there to help you more when using smaller camera LCD’s that can be visually misleading at times.
The other window is the view of the recorded images that you have taken while tethered. Now, I might be doing something wrong, but I can’t seem to get this window to display anything. It just says “Waiting For Request” before, during and after taking a shot. Must be a bug.
There is a button on the settings window that lets you toggle the live view window on and off, but if you have the Rec view window open it is always on top of the live view window. It never disappears unless you close it entirely. Ideally I would like to be able to toggle between the live view and the recorded shots by pressing a single key and then also be able to scroll through recorded shots using the arrow keys. Hopefully a future update will address this.
However, having said this, the software actually interfaces quite nicely with Lightroom by using a little trick that kind of makes sense to the way Olympus have designed the window layout between the controls and the live view. When you are setting up where to store the images that you take with OC, you can specify an Auto Import folder for Lightroom. If you have Lightroom open at the same time you can use that live view toggle button in OC to see what’s going on in Lightroom while you are still shooting. Toggle it on for your live view, toggle it off for the Lightroom captured view. This is extremely nifty design because you can resize the Lightroom side panels to be the same size as the OC camera settings window and it almost looks like it is a part of the Lightroom interface. I have the OC window on the top while I am shooting and I can toggle between the live view and whatever has been imported to Lightroom (in either develop or library mode). If I want to go into Lightroom fully I just click on the window and it sends the OC window behind and I am looking at Lightroom only. I use a hot corner in OS X to swing between open apps if I want to get back to OC. This is how I am using the app now and it works well for me like this.
screenshot showing the Olympus Capture settings window with Live View Off and Lightroom in the background
The import process to Lightroom takes about 10 seconds on my 2012 MacBook Pro, so it’s not unbearably slow. I’ve seen workshop videos where well known photographers who shoot tethered are waiting about the same time for their shots to appear in Lightroom or whatever they are using.
Camera Controls Window
Super Control Panel
Just like most Olympus cameras, even going back to the now discontinued E-series, the Super Control Panel (SCP) in Olympus Capture gives you an at-a-glance grid view of all your current settings on the camera. From here you can check and change shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, white balance compensation, picture mode (a camera profile), flash mode (for the onboard flash), flash power, focus mode, drive mode (single frame, burst, etc), metering mode, face recognition, image stabiliser mode and file capture mode (RAW, JPG, etc). There is also a slider for exposure compensation that you can drag between +5 and -5 EV.
To change any of the values all you do is click on the relevant block and a pop-up window showing all the options available appears. Click on the value you want and it adjusts the camera for you. Simple!
There is one thing it apparently can’t do and that is to change the shooting mode from whatever you have it set to on the camera (eg. manual, aperture priority, etc). Most of the time I would be using manual mode when shooting tethered, so it’s not too big a deal.
RC Mode (flash)
The RC mode refers to the remote control of Olympus’ flash system. Having come from Nikon’s CLS which works extremely well, I was quite surprised to learn that Olympus had also been using this system of controlling remote flashes for quite some time, in fact the E-3 even had it in place.
The basic concept is the same as Nikon CLS. You place a flash on the camera and it can be set up to act as a commander to control other flashes that are set up as slaves. It’s possible to control 3 groups of flashes on a common channel from the commander and set each of them to act in a certain way. For instance, if you want to fire them under manual power (recommended), TTL or A mode, you can specify this in the RC menu on the camera.
The little clip on flashes that come with the OM-D and PEN series cameras can also act as the commander for the Olympus FL-series hotshoe flashes, so when I am shooting something that doesn’t require my A/C powered strobes I grab my two FL-600R’s, set them into RC mode and play with their settings from the camera.
With OC you get the same RC controls in the camera settings window on the app, so you can literally set up an unlimited bunch of FL-series flashes on a set and control everything from the computer you have tethered to your E-M1. You don’t have to go and change the power settings on the flashes yourself. You’re in complete control of everything from the computer. The FL-600R flashes may be small, but they have just as much, if not more functionality than much more expensive flashes from Canon and Nikon, including swivel, bounce and zoom heads, optical slaves built-in, LED video light and full manual controls. The only thing they don’t have is a sync port so if you’re going to use them like a strobist would (with Pocket Wizards) you may need to get an accessory hotshoe device that does have a sync port. These are available really cheap from Chinese manufacturers online. I will write an article about the FL-600R one of these days. It’s on a to-do list I have hidden away.
Focusing Manually Via PC
Something you gain control of with the Olympus Capture app that I never saw in Lightroom’s tethering options is manual focus of micro four thirds lenses. Yes, that’s right, you click on little left and right arrows in the interface and the computer tells the lens to focus in small, medium or large increments. It also works with 4/3rds lenses on an MMF adapter. Pretty cool to manually focus a lens without actually touching it and this would definitely be helpful for critical focus when creating stacks, for example.
Activating the manual focus mode is as simple as selecting the focus mode in the Super Control Panel on the app, just like you would do it on the camera, then clicking on those focus shift buttons. Changing back to any of the other focusing modes is just as simple. You can enlarge the live view on the app to show only the area that is being focused on, which is quite handy, but… the live view is grainy, even when shown in the highest resolution mode. Don’t expect to see the same quality view you get using the camera’s LCD or EVF in magnified mode.
screenshot of the magnified view - not the prettiest, but it is an enlargement of a very small area of the image
Changing the focus point on the live view took me a while to figure out. You would think that using the arrow keys on the keyboard would be the most obvious way to do this, but whoever wrote the software had other ideas. To change the focus point you need to click the active point in the live view window and drag it to where you want to focus. Or you double click the place you want to focus on and it goes there instantly, but in the magnified view. A little quirky, but I can live with it.
Live View Window
As I mentioned earlier on in the GUI section of this guide, the live view window takes up the bulk of the screen real estate when the OC app is running. You can toggle it on and off but if you have the other two smaller windows switched on, they are always visible on top of the live view window. I find this quite annoying so I have them permanently switched off.
The live view window is primarily used for framing, and making sure you have your set properly lit if you are using continuous light sources. There are some other features of the live view window that bear mentioning, so I will go through them here.
Clicking on this button displays a grid that you can customise in a myriad of different ways. This is particularly useful for compositional aids such as the rule of thirds, but you can also add other lines for more complex grids when you need them. You can choose the colour of each grid line and you can also choose whether to have them dotted or solid, horizontal or vertical. It’s possible to delete individual grid lines or drag them to different points on the axis.
Where this comes in extremely handy is for shooting ranges of products that have to be framed and lined up exactly the same each time. Sure, you can lock down your tripod on a dolly (which I do) but there’s no guarantee that you won’t accidentally knock it off position when you’re moving around in studio. The customised grid lines are a silent blessing in this regard.
Highlights & Shadow Warnings
Pretty self-explanatory. You can toggle these on and off, but you can also specify thresholds in brightness values in the apps display settings menu.
You have a choice of shooting in 5 different aspect ratios with OC. 4:3 (native), 16:9, 3:2, 1:1 and 3:4. The button on the live view window toggles between the ratios by masking off corresponding parts of the sensor’s view. It doesn’t re-size or re-sample the image at all.
A point to take note of here is that if you are creating Olympus RAW files, the aspect ratio you’re shooting in is carried into Lightroom and displayed that way in both Library and Develop modes. However, as soon as you engage the crop tool you will see your full 4:3 native capture with white frames around where the recorded aspect ratio is. I find this particularly useful when I am shooting un-tethered as I have my E-M1 set up to shoot in 3:2 ratio. If while editing an image in Lightroom I find that I wish I had left a little headroom or footroom I can immediately find some by opening up the crop tool. It’s a hidden gem of a feature that micro four thirds has and it’s saved my ass many times.
For tethered shooting I do the same thing, set the ratio to 3:2 (which is the most popular ratio for printing and general use). If I need to reclaim some ground I crop in Lightroom.
Auto Focus Target
This button is used to toggle between the various auto focus targets available on an E-M1. You can toggle visibility with this, but you can also set which of the target types you’d like to use. I normally have my camera set to use the small single AF targets, but you can choose the larger rectangles or grouped targets, or the whole array if you want.
One Touch White Balance
I’m kind of confused about the usefulness of this whole “one touch” white balance thing. If I understand it correctly (which is potentially a dangerous proposition), you take a RAW photograph with the camera and then select a grey point on the RAW file to set your white balance and then store that in one of 4 “one touch WB” settings. You would then apply that white balance across other images in the camera by selecting one of the 4 settings from the Super Control Panel when shooting.
The OC live view window lets you do the same thing but to be honest I just don’t mess around with white balance that much. If I notice it is off in editing I use the eye-dropper tool in Lightroom to select a target and work from there. If there’s no neutral grey area in the shot I use the sliders.
Anyway, it’s there for those of you who want to work that way.
Level Gauge Display
This button handily displays the level of the camera on top of the live view, so you can use it to make certain of being dead level on jobs that require it.
As the name implies, if you would like to rotate the live view display by 90˚ or 180˚ use this button. This would help if you were using a second monitor to assist a person who is sitting for a portrait and you had the live view on that monitor. Or maybe you just like a slanted view of life in general? This would be useful then.
Boost (Live View)
Let’s just say that you’re shooting in Manual mode on a flash lit set and you are seeing things really dark in the live view (which will be the case if you are shooting at your flash sync speed to eradicate all the ambient light). Clicking this button will boost the live view so that you see what the camera thinks the scene should look like if it was correctly exposed.
Micro four thirds cameras do this. They have the light meters built into the sensor which is why you can mount just about any lens from any maker on the camera with an adapter, stick it in aperture priority mode and without the camera even knowing what aperture you have selected, it will give you a pretty good exposure. I use the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens this way and I have never had a poor exposure from that lens.
The exposure compensation indicator of the camera settings window in the app will show you that you are under exposing by X amount of stops based on the ambient light, but if you’re shooting flash that becomes irrelevant. Having this boost facility simply lets you see what’s going on in the scene and it’s very, very useful. I have this set to on all the time, unless I am working out where to place lights and need to use the modelling lights to see more or less where the reflections are going to be. It’s a simple toggle between the boost and the actual view.
screenshot of the unboosted live view - note the compensation slider shows we are 3 stops under exposed with these settings
screenshot showing what happens when you have Live View Boost on
We all know what the depth of field preview button does on a camera. It shows you how much of your image is going to be in focus when shooting at a given aperture. The preview button on the OC app does the same thing and when it’s used in conjunction with the aforementioned Boost button, you will get a very good idea of just how much of your scene is going to be in focus before you have even taken the shot, without the screen going dark (like it does on cameras with optical view finders). A handy feature.
LV Close Up Mode
This button will toggle you between the full scene and wherever your selected focus point is centered on. It doesn’t give you the ability to scale the view like you do on the E-M1 itself, but you can pan around the enlarged view with the cursor by clicking and dragging.
It’s very helpful to determine critical focus on a point of the item being photographed, especially if you are stacking or you want a particular point to be more in focus than other points (jewellery, for example).
Why Shoot Tethered?
Tethering has many advantages in a photography production environment. It allows you to exercise exact control over the camera’s settings and having the image in the computer immediately lets you, the photographer, get to see what you’ve produced almost instantly.
I like to use tethering in situations where I have to be exact with lighting and also where I am shooting multitudes of the same item. This is usually the case in high volume product photography which I dabble in from time to time.
I’ve also used tethering in high volume portraiture before. I was once asked to shoot an entire company’s staff of about 250 people in one day for profile photos they were going to use on Yammer. Shooting directly into Lightroom on that job was quite handy because I could show the person their portrait on a bigger screen immediately. You pick up on errors much easier with this method, especially since I find myself suffering increasingly with presbyopia as I get older. Not seeing lipstick on ladies teeth by looking at the little LCD screen on a camera is a sure-fire way of giving yourself more work to do in Photoshop later. Same goes for discovering just how visible fingerprints are on shiny surfaces like jewellery.
I’m really happy with the release of Olympus Capture. Discovering how easy it is to bring your output from OC directly into Lightroom while still shooting was the last swipe of the eraser against advantages the DSLR once held for me. I can now do everything I need to do with the OM-D system without constraints.
If you have any questions about shooting tethered with the E-M1 and Olympus Capture please pop them in the comments section below the article and I will do my best to answer you.
A quickly edited shot made in the course of writing this guide to Olympus Capture. I could probably have stacked a few images together to get more depth of field, but this was shot mainly to illustrate how I got to the lighting I wanted in a few shots just by using tethered shooting and physically holding a diffused Olympus FL-600R flash in different positions (the shots seen in the grid screen shot above the final image). I used two of these flashes with a small light tent for this shot and fired them in RC mode with manual settings selected from Olympus Capture. If I had had to rely on the rear LCD it would have taken me a lot longer because you literally don't always see the big picture that way and I would have had to put the second flash down with every shot and review. This was literally shot in a few minutes without putting it down.
Edited by DDFZ