My Tether Trolley Set Up

If you are an avid instagram user, you have probably noticed that almost all professionals tether their cameras with bright orange cables to a computer, there is a lot of kit involved in this and finding all the parts can be tricky when you don't know what you are looking for.

I got into tethering about 7 years ago with a Canon camera and Adobe Lightroom. I have since moved over to Capture One (which will be an article in itself), but the general premise has remained. There are very few occasions where I wont tether, but for the most part, my camera is firmly connected to my computer. 

Thanks to companies like Tether Tools (no endorsement here) it has become far more off the peg and far less DIY to build a decent tether table or trolley.  

In this video, I go over the technical and hardware related aspects to my tethering set up. From the right type of trolley from Amazon to the way I make sure I don't have massive repair bills for my cameras. As well as this, I cover all the bits of grip and technical gear that I have on my trolley at all times in order to quickly and efficiently shoot. I couldn't work as a commercial photographer without this, and I spend as much time at my tether trolley as I do at my desk.  When I first wanted to start tethering the enter process seemed shrouded in mystery. Thankfully, the internet has made it far easier for all of us to find exactly what we need. 

What is your current tether set up like? And what would you like to change about it?

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16 Comments

Benoit Pigeon's picture

No link to the back up set up? I would have been interested to see the full thing instead of searching for episodes. I've shot tethered my entire digital days which started in 1998 with the leaf DCB2. I still use regular usb cables and never had an issue. I roll some of it around a handle on my tripod or camera stand at the studio, not the best solution but it has been working since the Leaf Valeo 11 days.

Drew Morris's picture

I can understand paying for the convenience with the expensive bright orange USB cable with the built in clips to prevent damage from jerking it out, but from an IT perspective, it makes me laugh that people pay that much for that cable when you can get a USB cable, same length, same specs, and DIY yourself some clips and save like $75.

I know the feeling, the only difference in the thethertools and a generic cable is tethertools have rope/string inside to make them a little stronger. Still too expensive tho.

Johnny Rico's picture

Big thing is a bright color, last time I looked a few years ago nobody else had orange. Even when I purchased back up usb 3 cables last year I was only able to find a kind of bright blue generic ones.

Yes, tether tools is over priced, but they do serve a purpose.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Same here, it's one of those must haves to look the part.
I've not had any issue with a simple cable at all. More people trip over light stands than jerk USB cables.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

The notion that every "generic" usb cable is the same is of course not true, in terms of data transfer yes, but hardly in terms of durability and quality of the connectors.

Tethertools cables are not expensive in the context of shooting tethered, I have no issues paying for a quality cable that is easily spotted on set. Having 10+ of them they have proven to be of great quality over the years.

I use cable anchors from RRS which is more secure and won't break any time soon.

Their Arca Swiss plate is nice if you either have a permanent cable attached or having time to remove the plate each time you want to fit a cable.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I can only speak of my personal experience. I use a short cable with the clip that came from Canon that mounts directly to the camera with a little screw in the case of USB3 and a skinny 3rd party short cable for older models cameras (USB -B connection). The short cable is attached to a 12 feet cable that's 17 years old. Where the two cables join is my safety disconnect as they slide off each other easily. I came up with this when alternatives did not exist and I still haven't replaced any cable. The only thing is that it's very easy for the cables to disconnect, so I use velcro to add a limited amount of resistance. I have probably a couple thousand hours of connection that way, studio, but mostly location.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Not saying that other cables can't be used. For shorter cables, I use other brands as well, though not Canon, Sony or Nikon cables which I find to be poor in comparison to good quality cables.

The notion that every "generic" cable is of the same quality is simply incorrect, and for someone like me who shoot tethered 99% of the time as well as connecting Mocco gear on a regular basis, paying a little for quality, cables are a given.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Paul, I am really not pretending I have the best set up, but the speed of the cable when tethered is not relevant at all for the product shots I take.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

To clarify the speed has nothing to do with it, what I referred to when mentioning shorter cables is that Tethertools do not make shorter cables. Nor is the orange color needed when you use shorter cables since they do not touch the floor. (see image for my typical mobile tether setup)

For that I use good cables from other brands, it's very important that the connectors are durable and do not wear to fast. I have had USB-C connectors on cheap cables that not only are cheap but the measurement aren't exact so the cables easily unplug etc.

In studio using Tethertools Jerkstopper, Active Extension USB 3.0 cable Jerkstopper Extension Lock, MacBook Pro on a tray attached to my older than dirt Arkay 7ft studio stand. Mac running Capture One Pro.

On location, Medium sized Gitzo tripod with laptop tray, secondary monitor (mirrored) on nearby desk for client to see all images as they transfer over in Capture One Pro and all the Tethertools toys mentioned above.

William Howell's picture

I use a Matthews lowboy and a Tether Tools iMac table top. I’ll post a picture.

Johnny Rico's picture

I use a Kupo Runway Base and a 20" C-Stander riser w/ a DigiPlate on top. Pretty much the exact setup and is portable to a location if needed.

William Howell's picture

Yeah I like this kind of setup we have, I think Scott’s cart takes up a little too much room.

Johnny Rico's picture

It really depends on your studio size, if you were 2-3k sf I'd use a cart like his w/ a UPS on it. I still lust after a Inovativ Cart every time have a 3+ day shoot

Don Risi's picture

Since I shoot Nikon, when I shoot tethered, I use Nikon's Camera Control Pro 2 software to connect the camera to the computer, and their ViewNX to view the images.

As much as I love it for editing, I would never use Lightroom for shooting tethered.

Nikon's Camera Control Pro 2 allows mw to do a couple of things I think are important --

First, I can shoot to the HDD on the computer or an external connected to the computer, AND save to the cards in the camera at the same time. Instant backup.

Second, I can control everything on the camera (except zooming) from the computer. And I mean EVERYTHING. I have used this to shoot straight down at a setup for a magazine layout, food shots, and such, and I don't need a ladder and I don't have to look through the viewfinder. Hang the camera off a boom over the table, and see what the camera sees, focus, take the shot. Works like a charm.

And I do use the Tethertools cable -- I'm kinda clumsy, and the bright orange keeps me from tripping over a cable. But they are expensive. My backup cable is a generic blue cable.

For a table, I often use the shelf on my Rock-N-Roller Multicart. I also have a great little folding table I can use.