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2,812 Tutorials

How to Tether Cameras, Make Star Trails on a Mac, Learn RAW Workflows, and More

Dave answers questions about improving digital workflow, adding polarizing filters to a point-and-shoot camera, camera tethering, and more.

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can, though given the quantity of email I get, I cant promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus.

Tethering to Lightroom

Is it possible to tether my digital camera to Adobe Lightroom?

Sherry Chaples, Springfield, Virginia

Yes there is, but only if you have one of a narrow range of supported cameras.

For the benefit of everyone else, I should explain that "tethering" is when you connect your digital camera directly to a PC via a USB cable, and use the computer to manage a photo session. You see this most commonly in a studio, where photos arrive on the PC almost instantly as they're taken. That allows the photographer to organize and evaluate images in real-time, ensuring that they have the shots they need while the modeling talent or client is still in front of the camera.

Adobe Lightroom does support tethering, but only for select Canon and Nikon cameras (and the Leica S2). For the complete list of supported model, check out Lightroom's Help page on this topic.

Star Trails on a Mac

Is there any programs to use for stacking star trails with a Mac?

Timothy Dittmer, Wichita, Kansas

Sure thing, Tim. You might have seen my recent article on how to create star trails by stacking a large number of short exposures, and I suggested using a "stacking" program to make the photo magic happen. The good news is that there is a Mac version of one of the programs I recommended: StarStaX. It's free and delivers superb results.

A Complex RAW Workflow

I'm an advanced amateur who's been shooting digital for quite a while now, and I'm considering shooting in RAW. Unfortunately, I'm a bit put off by all of the steps necessary to do anything with them. Here are the steps I went through this past weekend:

1. Import the photos using Windows Live Photo Gallery.

2. Open the RAW files in Sony Image Data Converter and perform basic adjustments to the RAW files.

3. Export to JEPG using Sony Image Data Converter.

4. Open the JEPGs in Windows Live Photo Gallery for further editing (cropping, straightening, minor adjustments to exposure and color).

5. Open the JEPGs in Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to work with the EXIF data, such as adding my information and a copyright.

Bob Krause, Marietta, Georgia

That's quite a workflow you've got there, Bob. No wonder you're put off by the thought of using RAW! The biggest issue I have with your process is that you are continuing to do exposure and color correction on your photos after you convert them to JPEG. Doing that defeats the purpose of working in RAW format to begin with. The extra dynamic headroom of the RAW format gives you better results "in post," and you lose all of that the moment you export them to JPEG format and then continue to fiddle with colors and exposure. I've written about digital workflows before; I recommend you check it out my workflow series (Part I and Part II) and consider trying something like what I recommend.

Likewise, I humbly suggest that you're using way too many tools. I think that it's unsustainable to switch back and forth among three different programs; you'll get frustrated and abandon the RAW format before long. Instead, I highly recommend investing in a dedicated digital workflow tool like Adobe Lightroom or Corel AfterShot, both of which are superb all-in-one programs for working with RAW images.

Polarizing Filter

I am new to photography and don't know if what I have in mind is possible. I have just purchased a point-and-shoot camera and have read that a polarizing lens would help me take better landscape pictures. Is it possible to fit such a filter to this camera?

Andy Hooper, Springfield, Missouri

It depends on your camera. A key disadvantage of point-and-shoots is that they generally do not have threaded lenses, which means you can't screw on filters in the same way you can with digital SLRs. But that might not be enough to stop you. Search the Web for your camera model and terms like "polarizing filter" or "filter adapter." You can find adapters that you can attach to the front of many cameras, and then thread filters and other lens attachments onto that.

Also, keep in mind that polarizers aren't magical fixes. You'll need to learn how to use them, and under what conditions they make a difference. Check out my article, Fix Common Photo Problems with a Polarizer, for some help getting started.

Hot Pic of the Week

This week's Hot Pic: "Stealth" by Henry L Michel, Hemet, California

Henry recounts how he took this photo, "&crawling through the sand at Balboa Pier, trying to get as close as possible without scaring the birds away." He shot with a Nikon D3000.

This week's runner-up: "Acadia Sunrise" by Jeffrey Berman, Wheeling, Illinois

Jeffrey writes: "I have always been enamored by landscape photos with a powerful sunrise or sunset. Finding myself at Acadia, near this spot with the jutting rocks, at the right moment, was a stroke of luck." He captured this photo with a Canon EOS Rebel XS.

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