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Cool Tools: onOne’s DSLR Remote Pro

Cool Tools: onOne’s DSLR Remote Pro

A “marriage made in heaven”? Absolutely?  Brangelina? No,  I can’t get into that stuff. To me, the new SuperCouple of the Day was formed when my iPhone 3GS bonded with my Nikon D3. Two of my favorite tools joined in the pursuit of happiness and perfection. The matchmaker? onOne Software’s DSLR Remote Pro — probably the coolest application in the iTunes Store.

Simply stated, DSLR Remote Pro allows me to shoot tethered into my computer and to use my iPhone to  control several key camera functions. For many of us, it will replace the need to buy “tethering” software AND a wireless remote camera/shutter control. It’s an incredible bargain at $19.99. What do you need to use DSLR Remote Pro? A computer (Mac or Windows) with a wireless card, an iPhone 3G or 3GS, and one of the Canon or Nikon cameras from this list.

In this post: (1) I’ll discuss how and why I use DSLR Remote Pro ; and (2) show you how to set it up and get it running on your iPhone and computer.

Shooting Tethered:

When I can, I shoot tethered. There are lots of advantages and a few minor disadvantages — all of which I’ve discussed in a previous newsletter article.

The upside of shooting tethered is: (1) the ability to control the camera without having to work through the menus on the small LCD screen and turning the dials on the camera; (2) the ability to see a much more accurate display of the image on the computer screen; (3) the ability to focus and fire the camera without touching the camera or looking through the viewfinder; (4) the ability to view the actual image on a real screen, not the faux image on the camera’s LCD screen; and, (5) with live view, the ability to get feedback as to what the image will look like BEFORE the shot is taken.

The downside is the need to be near the computer to preview the image, make adjustments and fire the camera AND the fact that if one allows the “wow” of shooting tethered to break one’s focus, the shoot becomes about technology and not about using images to tell stories. Said another way, we can’t let shooting tethered lead us to become “large screen chimpers”. (“Chimping” is the name given to the process of shooting a frame or two and then looking at it on the LCD and going “OOOH, AHHH, OOOH OOOH”).

As you’ll see from the newsletter article, to shoot tethered you need software to allow your camera and computer to communicate with each other. (In writing this I realize that, in essence, DSLR Remote Pro creates one of those French things — what do they call it? A “menage a trois”? A three way relationship between the camera, the computer and the iPhone.)

Some camera companies give you the software to shoot tethered. Some don’t. Nikon is one of the “don’ts”.  You have to buy it. For my Nikon D3, I use their Camera Control Pro 2, a great program; but it costs $180.00 and that’s on top of what I paid for my D3.

OK, so now we know a bit about shooting tethered. Time to move on.

DSLR Remote Pro’s Feature Set:

So, what does DSLR Remote Pro bring to the table — for $19.99? A very versatile alternative to the factory software that allows us to do most all of what we want to do on a tethered shoot and then some.

DSLR Remote Pro iPhone Screen Shot

DSLR Remote Pro iPhone Screen Shot

Above, is The Main Screen from my iPhone, showing the basic feature set. There’s more; that little wheel in the left hand corner brings up an “Options” menu that we’ll discuss in a moment.

Wireless Remote Trigger: Push the “FIRE” button on the lower right, and the camera takes a shot.

There are many times we want to fire the camera without touching it.

Most obvious are those times when the mere act of touching the camera may induce movement and ruin the exposure. Long exposures are particularly susceptible to movement. And there are times when we need perfect alignment between the frames we are shooting — like when we are shooting HDR. In the past, in these situations,  I’ve used a dedicated trigger system. All it did was fire the camera. But, now, because DSLR Remote Pro does so much more, it will be my go to triggering system (when I can shoot tethered, which is a prerequisite of using the iPhone application.)

But, perhaps the best use of triggers is when we are shooting people. For me, one of the key variables in getting the “story” out of the person I’m shooting is the rapport I create during the session. The key to good communication? Studies tell us that it is eye contact; the more eye contact we make with our subjects the more they trust us, relax and hear what we are saying. Don’t think so? Have someone look down or away from you and try to have a conversation. So what do most of us do in a shoot? We put the camera in front of our faces — making it impossible to have eye contact with our subjects. In my experience, and that of many of my friends, it is so much easier to get good results when we are using remote triggers that we rarely shoot any other way.

If this were all DSLR Remote Pro did, it would be a lot. And, it would be a very cost effective solution.

But, it does a lot more.

Control Over Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, White Balance and Image Quality:

As you can see from the remaining buttons on the screen, DSLR Remote Pro allows us to control the basic parameters of our shots — from the iPhone. Want to change or adjust WB, push the button and get a set of choices. Want to go from RAW to .jpeg or RAW + .jpeg (and all different levels of .jpeg), push the screen button. Light changing — need to up the ISO, push a screen button. You get the idea.

The grayed out buttons:

Some settings have to be made on the camera; but DSLR Remote Pro keeps track of them for you and lets you see them on your iPhone. I’m shooting in “Manual” mode and the screen tells me. The screen also tells me that I’m shooting in AutoFocus S mode, another function I have to set on the camera. The other grey symbols — the 0.0 — is for exposure compensation, something else that must be set on the camera but will be tracked on the iPhone.

The Screen Area:

The blank/black area above the buttons is where: (1) the picture shows up when I take it; and, (2) my Live View image shows up should I be shooting in LV mode (more on this later.) The cool thing about image playback is that we can zoom in to check on focus and we can flip between the images we’ve already taken.

So, DSLR Remote Pro isn’t just a trigger — it’s actually a fairly comprehensive camera control system. If all it did were to control those functions, that would be enough for most of our shoots. Sold?

But Wait. There’s More! The Options Menu is the gateway to several sophisticated and useful function controls.


Live Preview — I’m starting at the bottom of this menu because this is the feature that blows me away. If you have a camera that has a “live view” feature, you can turn LV on and you can see the live preview on your iPhone!

Big deal? Yes, very big deal.

Let’s talk about a product shoot where meticulous light placement and careful framing are the name of the game. Without the iPhone, you go to the set, make the change, and then come back to your computer screen to see the impact. With DSLR Remote Pro, you can make the change, stay where you are, view the result, in real time, and modify it if necessary. That is huge.

I’m excited about using it on model shoots, too. Not getting the expression you want? Show the model what he or she is doing without having them leave the set. I know that this ability to on-the-spot coach will enhance my ability to direct a subject to get the very most possible from each shot.

Once I get that immediate adjustment in the pose or attitude, I simply have to move out of the frame and push the “FIRE” button. Talk about creating an intimate conversation/collaboration, I can’t wait to use the iPhone in my next shoot.

Intervalometer — is a fancy phrase for what we used to call “timed exposures”. From my iPhone I can set:


This feature allows us to do both “delayed shutter” or “self-timer”  activation — if we want to get into the picture, or “time lapse” photography — taking a series of images over a defined time span. In either mode, the image taken comes up on the phone screen so that we can view it; if we’ve taken a sequence of images, we can flip through them.

Auto Bracket: Useful to guarantee proper exposure and a staple in HDR photography, it is great to be able to set this feature remotely. There are a couple of features that are very helpful here.


HDR photographers will see that everything we need to vary our captures can be controlled from this screen. [I’ve done a very complete discussion of High Dynamic Range (HDR)  photography here, so I won’t go back into the specifics, again.]

First, we choose how many stops above and below our center exposure we need. Then we can decide how far apart they will be. The slider “Full Stop” will also allow us to go to 1/3 stops. When we do HDR, we never change the aperture setting; we don’t want to risk changing the depth of field. But, there are times, when bracketing, that we want to change the exposures by varying the aperture or the ISO setting — and the slider set to “Aperture” now can also be set to those other variables. Finally, we can choose whether we want a delay between firing or not.

When this is all set, to shoot a bracket, we simply push the “FIRE” button and the camera takes over. Very cool.

Summary: This is a full featured application that replaces some expensive hardware and software for a very reasonable price. (BTW– If all you want is a wireless remote trigger, onOne sells a “lite” version of the app for $1.99)

Setting It Up and Getting It Going:

This is really a simple process. You buy the App and load it on your phone. You download the free “server” application and put it on your computer. First, you make sure that your iPhone and Computer are on the same network. You hook your camera up to the computer by USB or FireWire. You start the server application on the computer and you turn on the camera. You will get this start up screen.


The screen is telling me that the computer is communicating with my D3.

The first thing we have to do is choose a “Download Location” a folder on our computers to receive the images we’ll be shooting. In my case, I chose a folder on my desktop called “Test”. I’ve also got the option to set up a copy to be imported into Lightroom. In my tethering tutorial that’s just what I did.

But, lately, I’ve been tethering into Bridge, instead. I find Bridge to be less complicated and less fussy than Lightroom. Just my personal choice. I then open Bridge and open the location folder — in this case “Test”. All of the images I shoot will be opened into Bridge.

The final step, turn on the iPhone DSLR Remote Pro application. It will let you pick your network and then immediately go to the start up screen.

You’re in business. That’s all it takes.

onOne’s Tutorials: Usually, I’d do an in depth tutorial on the steps I just laid out. But, with onOne’s stuff, I don’t have to. They are so deeply committed to making sure we learn how to use their products quickly and efficiently, that they’ve created a series of video tutorials that walk us through the steps.

Here are a couple of them:

How to Get Started:

Using the Ad Hoc Network Setting:

Just because you’re not near a WiFi network does not mean you can’t use DSLR Remote Pro. All you need to do is set up an “Ad Hoc” network, as the video below shows you.

One thing — I had trouble setting up an Ad Hoc network in an area where there was a WiFi network, but one I could not get on. Here’s a trick Mike Wong — an onOne technical guru and all around great guy — taught me. Put you iPhone in Airplane mode; that will lock out the competing WiFi networks. Then, set up your Ad Hoc network. Works like a charm.

That said, here’s a video on setting up the Ad Hoc. It’s really easy:

A couple of things to watch for: (1) Ad Hoc networks are volatile and not stored in your computer; each time you need one you will have to set it up — but that takes less than a minute; and (2) When you start the iPhone DSLR Remote Pro app, the server screen will come up and it will, most likely show the name of your computer — not the network you just created; no big deal, just select the computer and you are done.

One Last Video — A Location Shoot:

Funny, the guy shooting the hoop looks an awful like Brian Kraft, the VP of Sales for onOne. I’m not sure I’d hang my D3 up there while he’s shooting.

Bottom Line: A very cool tool!

(Copyright: PrairieFire Productions/Stephen J. Herzberg — 2009)

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2 Responsesto “Cool Tools: onOne’s DSLR Remote Pro”

  1. D Delaney says:

    Any idea if this cool app will be available for the Blackberry, Droid, or Windows mobile OS phones? For those of us that like our current wireless carries too much to switch just so we can have an iphone.

  2. I’ve sent an inquiry to my friends at onOne. As soon as I hear back from them, I’ll post a response, here.

    Even if they don’t port it over to other phone platforms, it does run on the iPod touch — which will spare you the switch of mobile carriers.

    Hope this helps.

    Updated: 17 Nov 2009

    There are no plans to port the application to other phone platforms. So, the best bet for non-iPhone owners is to use the iPod Touch.

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