On the Importance of Tethering and Set Etiquette for Fashion and Advertising Photography

Posted by: on May 13, 2020

I remember the years when I first started out photography, where every piece of equipment seemed new and shiny and that I needed to get my hands on them all. You could argue it was a fascination with new toys but let’s call it “professional exploration.”

Whether it was toys or exploration, it was difficult making decisions on what should have priority and it took me a few years to finally get around to getting a tethering cable. Even then, I remember just buying the cheapest off the rack brandless wire as I had not realized what a crucial role it would start to play in my career. Word of advice: don’t. Of course, budgeting is always an issue but if you can, splurge on critical equipment. Otherwise you’ll end up going through more bad wires than you would imagine possible and having them fail in the middle of a shoot with clients immediately puts you in an unnecessarily bad spot both in the eyes of the client and in terms of your stress levels. Not good.

Photo Credit: Shavonne Wong

Clients are not the most imaginative of people. Harsh but it’s true and we’ve all had them. While we all love our clients and depend on them for our work, sometimes trying to understand what they actually want can prove to be the most difficult part of the job. They use terms like “edgy” or “moody” but what those terms can mean 101 different things to 101 different people and so translating them into the final work can be an uphill climb. This issue is precisely why I always build a mood board full of images before the shoot, have them pre-approved by the clients, and tether on shoot so they can clearly see what we’re working towards.

When you’re shooting for clients, you’ll always want to provide them with the smoothest and least stressful experience. Especially for the clients on set who have bigger bosses to answer to. It makes for a happier shoot, a more enjoyable experience and a strong foundation for a future relationship. Tethering on set provides immediate results on a much bigger screen that they can then nitpick on or take a photo to send to their upper management. There is lesser guesswork and unnecessary safety shots needed when they can clearly see that we’ve gotten what is needed. Basically, tethering is good for you and great for your clients. Everyone wins!

Photo Credit: Shavonne Wong

Be sure to use tethering correctly though. Take note that if you’re at the beginning of the shoot and still fiddling around with the lighting setup. If possible, keep the tethered shots away from the clients until you’ve perfected the scene. This way, the first images the client sees should already wow them, which would put them in a good and more relaxed mood and might help in reducing them nervously overlooking your shoulder.

During the shoot itself, use it to make sure your shots are properly focused. One of the biggest downsides in shooting without tethering is that you have to rely on your camera’s tiny screen where shots that are unfocused could seem focused in there. The heartbreak of then realizing your favorite shot in camera when finally transferred to computer is unfocused and terrible.

The last benefit to tethering on set is that your team will be able to see the images while you’re shooting. Usually at the beginning of the shoot, I will do a test shot to allow my makeup artist, hair stylist and wardrobe stylist see how their works look in the lighting on set. Being able to zoom in on a bigger screen allows them to see any small mistakes and fix them on the spot. During the shoot itself, the team will also be looking out for anything that has moved out of place. This ends up helping to save a lot of post-production time as we try to get everything right in camera.

Photo Credit: Shavonne Wong

So, shiny toys are awesome and there is plenty to be excited about when working with various pieces of gear but something as “simple” as a tethering cable can really go a long way towards achieving artist / client happiness and awesome final products.

Happy shooting!

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