Exposure Bracketing

Exposure Bracketing

This week I’ll show you what bracketing is and how you can use it to better your images.

Bracketing is basically taking three, five or even nine different exposures of the same scene.

What this then enables you to do is blend them together in your computer so you have details in both the darkest and the brightest parts of the image.

Sometimes cameras cannot handle the dynamic range that you want to photograph. (The dynamic range is a measurement of the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of the image). So by taking multiple images of the same scene, you can then use the more powerful brain in your computer to blend these together to get the image you were hoping for.

It takes a little preparation and you need to know where the bracketing setting is in your camera, but once you can access this setting, you can very quickly grab three or five images of a scene when you thing the dynamic range is too high.

To get best results, you should have your camera on a tripod, but if the shutter speed is high enough and your hand is steady enough, you can do it handheld.

There are two different settings for bracketing. The first is how many images you want in the bracketing sequence, the second is how far apart you want them taken or how different you want the exposures.

I normally keep the gaps to one stop of light, and I normally shoot between 3 and 5 exposures of a scene when the DR is high.

These are the steps:

01. Get your camera on a sturdy tripod

02. Find the bracketing setting on your camera

03. Set it to 3 or 5 exposures at 1 stop increments

04. If the shutter speed is slow, make sure you have the self timer switched on so you don’t induce any movement into the camera.

05. Set the camera to constant fire on the Sonys or on rapid fire on the canons.

06. Press the shutter and let it rattle through the images.

You can also shoot them individually and apparently on the Sonys, in this setting you get a better image from them….but the difference in reality is minuscule.

07. Once you’ve taken them and are back at home, import them into your software of choice

There are a few different ways you can blend them together


If you’re new to this, just use the HDR function in Lightroom option – (select the bracketed images, right click the images, select merge, then HDR)

If you have photoshop use the photoshop HDR pro but don’t do any of the editing in photoshop (see the above video for details on this).

An advanced method is using luminosity masks. To make it easy, the best way is to get a plugin like Raya pro from Jimmy McIntyre which speeds the process up no end, and if you’re serious about landscape photography or HDR images, it is worth learning about luminosity masks. He also has some great lessons in using luminosity masks and in photography in general.

HDR has a little bit of a bad name for itself in Photography because when it was first introduced, people pushed it further than it should have been pushed producing awful looking images, however, if it is done properly, you can get some great looking, very natural images from this process.

Once you have blended the images together, edit them as normal in Lightroom, or which ever piece of software you use. You’ll notice that the image can be pushed around a lot more than normal, and there is a lot more detail in the highlights and shadows, the parts that would normally lose detail or become noisy if you process them too much.

An that’s about it. Bracketing can be a powerful tool to have in your arsenal, and all it takes is a little forethought when out taking photographs, and then a little more processing of the images in your software of choice.

If you have any questions about bracketing or you’re stuck on any of the steps, leave a comment below or email me. It would be great to be able to help you get through the process and produce better images.

And if you are in Dubai, give me a shout and stop by, it would be great to talk photography with some fellow photographers.





Back to Top