Mike Hagen testing the software in the studio, taking a photo by pressing the shutter button on the iPad.
To test out the capabilities of the new Capture Pilot v1.2 software, I used it during a photo shoot of seven children on location at a house. I set up a mobile photo studio in a garage and asked the kids to work with me as we took photos. I know from past experience that if you let kids participate in the process of actually taking photos, you’ll come away with much better results. So in this case, I let the kids take photos of each other using the Capture Pilot iPad software. As necessary, I stepped in to make sure I captured usable images for deliverables to the parents.
Using the app requires you to tether your camera to the Capture One Pro host software, and then create a wireless network connection between your iOS device (iPad) and your main computer. Next, you’ll set up Capture One Pro to operate as a server by clicking on the button “Start Image Server” in the software package. Once all the pieces are connected (iPad, laptop and camera), then you start Capture Pilot on the iPad and connect to the image server.
Once you start up Capture Pilot, you’ll be asked to connect to the correct server. In this case, I named the server “15in_MacBookPro.” After you are connected, you can start taking photographs and adjusting camera settings.
Taking photos from the iPad device is as simple as pressing the shutter release button on the iPad screen. There is no delay and the system responds instantaneously. As many of you know, a smile or an expression only lasts a brief moment, so any delay in your camera system means that you’ve lost the shot. Fortunately, Capture Pilot responds like you would expect a professional caliber program to respond. I never once missed a shot because of system lag.
Another neat feature of Capture Pilot is how it allows you to easily change camera ISO, shutter speed, aperture, image quality and white balance through screen-based controls. The camera control panel has an intuitive interface for adjusting the most-often used parameters of the camera.
Here’s an example of changing the camera’s aperture from the iPad interface. Simply touch the aperture value and a fly-out menu displays. Alternatively, you can scroll the aperture wheel like a regular camera control dial. Cool.
Here, you can see how easy it is to adjust the exposure mode and image quality.
Triggering the camera from the iPad means that you’ll be modifying the way you normally take photos in the studio. Traditionally, you’d be looking through your camera’s viewfinder when taking the shots. However, when using the iPad, you obviously aren’t looking through the camera, so you need to take a few more precautions to ensure your shots are in focus.
My recommendation is that after you’ve set up the camera and lighting equipment, you should mark a spot on the floor where the model will stand. This makes it easy for everyone (photographer and model) to visually see the focus point and posing point. Also, I recommend using a wider-angle lens than you normally would. I found a couple of times that sometimes my subjects were slightly out of the frame. Remember that since you are using the iPad to snap the photos, you won’t be recomposing in the camera each time.
The photos for this test were taken on location at a garage. Here, you can see the kids taking photos using the iPad. The camera (Nikon D700) is tethered to my laptop which is hidden behind the softbox.
The screen on the iPad doesn’t show a live view of the scene, but rather you see the images on the iPad after taking the photo. Once you’ve taken the image, the file transfers via USB cable to Capture One Pro on your laptop. Then, the iPad accesses the file via the wireless network so you can see it on the iPad screen. Once the file has loaded to the iPad, you can easily pinch-zoom in and out to check lighting, focus, and composition. The iPad is truly an amazing chimping tool.
In fact, using the iPad to chimp (view) your photos introduces an entirely new “problem” when shooting. Since the iPad has such a beautiful interface, you can’t help but look at your images on the big screen. Many times I found myself zooming in/out rather than taking photographs of my model on the other side of the lens. To be honest, it is quite distracting the first time you use the iPad for photography. You really have to train yourself to keep your mental focus on the subject, take your photographs,
then look at them after the poses are finished.
The big advantage of using the iPad in the studio of course is the immense collaboration that takes place between all the people on the set. In my case, I was working with a bunch of children and parents during my test of the technology. Most of the kids hadn’t ever posed before and needed a lot of direction for how to hold their hands, tilt their head, etc. Using the iPad to show what they just did and then suggest alternatives was incredibly helpful. In the studio, everyone flocks to the iPad like moths to a flame. There’s always a crowd around the device and everyone wants to hold it. This is true for adults, kids or the photographer!
This is the Capture One Pro screen from the main host computer. On the right side are the images, previews, etc. On the left are the settings for the capture folder, camera controls and image server.
A few times during the shoot the iPad didn’t respond to input and I had to disconnect from the server and reconnect. This process took a couple minutes to sort out and slowed down the flow and energy in the studio. My hope is that reliability with improve so that the entire process is seamless. However, as you all know, anytime you work with wireless networks, you run the risk of a disconnection every once in a while.
Even with a few glitches during my real world testing, I loved using the new version of Capture Pilot. It added an entirely new dimension to my shooting and greatly enhanced the interaction between the models and the photographer. I found Capture Pilot with camera control to be a useful working tool in the studio. Being able to adjust the major functions of the camera directly from the iPad screen is a great technology and having the benefit of the large iPad image review was extremely helpful when judging critical focus and composition.
Capture Pilot integrates with most of the current digital cameras on the market today including the Nikon D3 series, D700, D7000, D300/D300s, etc. Of course, it also integrates with Canon, Phase One, Leaf and Mamiya cameras.
You can buy Capture Pilot here:
Price is $14.99.
(Mike Hagen is Director of the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). He also runs his own professional photography business Out There Images (
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Originally written on August 12, 2011
Last updated on October 3, 2016
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