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Technical

March 2009

The WiFi units that are available for EOS DSLR models from the EOS 40D upwards have many uses, but seeing exactly how they might fit into and benefit your workflow can be confusing. How you’ll use them really depends on what you’re doing, but here are a few ideas for getting the most from wireless shooting in the studio and taking portraits with a portable studio.

The current Canon WiFi units and camera compatibilities are as follows:

  • The WFT-E1 unit operates with the EOS-1D Mark II, EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 5D.
  • The WFT-E2 unit operates with the EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III.
  • The WFT-E3 unit operates with the EOS 40D and EOS 50D.
  • The WFT-E4 unit operates with the EOS 5D Mark II.

Studio portraits

© David Newton

Using a WiFi transmitter hooked up to a computer and projector allowed the performer to get instant feedback on his body position during the shoot. It allowed him to see how his body was placed and what it was doing, without having to look at the rear screen on the camera.

For wireless studio shoots one approach that you could use would be to transmit your JPEG files directly to your computer desktop via a Canon WiFi unit. You can either display the images on a computer screen or connect your computer to a XEED projector that can beam the images from the shoot onto a wall at the other end of the studio. Within a couple of seconds of pressing the shutter button the image can be projected onto the wall. Then the model or portrait subject can either make adjustments themselves, or you can interact with them and explain more clearly how you’d like them to adjust a pose.

If a model can get feedback of how the images are looking instantly without having to walk around and look at the back of the camera, it makes the process easier and helps with model interaction. Clothes and poses can be changed or portrait clients can make their own suggestions for poses or group shots. This way of working helps to speed up the whole process and being wireless, there are no cables for you or the model to trip over.

Commercial product

If you’re a commercial product photographer then your photography can be almost like a production line. Put one product in, take a picture, and move it out. If you get to that stage, you’re doing well as you’ll be saving time and working more efficiently. The Canon WiFi units can help with this. When shooting commercial work like this, you don’t want to have to go back and do reshoots. They waste time, cost money and decrease the speed of your work, so anything that avoids these problems is a good thing.

One way in which WiFi can help is to allow you to get instant large review images on a computer so you can check for focus, exposure, depth-of-field and composition more easily than on the back of the camera. It can be especially helpful if you’re shooting with a tilt and shift lens, as you will want to check the exact plane of focus. While the screen on the back of the camera is good, it can’t compete with the screen size on either a laptop or desktop computer.

A typical set-up for a photographer would be to work with the Mac computer just off to one side of the lightcube, facing back to you. You can then shoot; the images are transmitted wirelessly to the computer and you then just have to look up to check the results on the screen. Gaining that instant feedback really helps to speed up the shoot, and the quicker you can turn work around, the more you can do, and that ultimately means you can earn more money.

© David Newton

Transmitting product images wirelessly to your computer lets you review results immediately.

Although you could achieve the same result using a USB cable connected into the laptop, not having cables trailing around the studio makes it safer to work in and removes the risk of you tripping on a cable and causing the camera, computer or both to come crashing to the floor.

Events

Apart from commercial product and studio portraits, you can also use the WiFi units to help when shooting at events, especially if you specialise in the standard head-and-shoulders or full-length portrait on a backdrop at black-tie events. The event market is all about speed. You want people to come in, have their picture taken, walk over to select an image, pay and leave. In such a fast-paced environment there is no time for changing memory cards and running backwards and forwards - you will just want to get a constant flow of portrait subjects coming through to pose in front of your camera.

If you work with one assistant to take the money and work the pay station, you can achieve this easily. You take the pictures, they are wirelessly transmitted to the print station as JPEGs big enough for the print size you are offering, the guests can have a quick look on the screen at the three or four images you’ve taken, choose the one they want, pay and take their print with them.

© John McDermott

At the Canon Space during the Visa Pour l’Image 2008 event photographer Rémy Cortin demoed shooting wireless portraits with the EOS-1Ds Mark III with an 85mm lens and sent pictures via WiFi to a computer for instant viewing and editing.

As long as you always send JPEG files back they are ready to use and will transmit nice and quickly, so by the time the subjects leave the shooting backdrop, their images are on the print station. If we assume that it takes them 30 seconds or so to choose which image they want, another 30 seconds for the print to be made and 30 seconds for them to pay cash for the print, the turnaround time from them leaving the backdrop to having paid with a print in their hand is around 90 seconds.

The faster you can get people through, the more people you can get done in a night and the easier it is. If you had to keep swapping cards over there’d be mistakes, and if you used a USB cable you could almost guarantee that a guest would trip over it.

As a professional photographer, the key thing to remember is that invariably you are a small business. Small businesses need to make money and if there is something that can make that process quicker or easier, then it can only be a good thing. As many photographers have found the Canon WiFi units that are made for use with the EOS pro DSLRs can help to speed up product photography, simplify model photography and shorten the time to payment in event photography.