Advice Centre by Photography Experts (Part 5) - Getting to grips with bracketing

6/13/2012 9:24:37 AM

Getting to grips with bracketing

I understand the concept of bracketing exposures and I'm beginning to see the benefits, but can I get my camera to do it successfully? Can I heck. Help!

Description: getting to grips with bracketing to get the best pictures

Getting to grips with bracketing to get the best pictures

For those who aren't familiar with bracketing, it involves taking several shots of the same subject or scene, but varying the exposure for each to ensure that one of them will be perfectly exposed. In this digital age, where a fair degree of exposure error can be corrected during post-production, you might think that there's no longer a need for bracketing. However, it's always better to get the exposure correct in-camera rather than to rectify mistakes later, so bracketing does still have its place.

There are three ways to bracket with your DSLR. The first is to use the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) feature that you'll find in your camera's menu. With most cameras this works in all exposure modes except Full Auto and allows you to set the parameters of the bracket; how much over and under the correct exposure you want to bracket, usually up to +/- 2 stops in 73 stop increments. With some DSLRs, you can also set how many frames you want in the bracket (usually three or five). For example, you could set AEB to -1 stop, 0 and +1 stop, or -2,-1,0, +1, +2 stops - depending on the situation. Many DSLRs also let you shift the bracket either side of the 'correct' exposure to cope with extreme lighting.

The main thing to remember with AEB is that if you have your camera set to single-frame advance, you need to press the shutter button three times (or five) to complete the bracket. If you don't, you'll only take the first frame in the bracket, then if you change camera position, the next shot you take will be the second one in the AEB sequence, which could be totally wrong for that situation.

Description: To get the best effect on the clouds they used auto bracketing -1, 0, +1, then combined the shots in photomatrix

To get the best effect on the clouds they used auto bracketing -1, 0, +1, then combined the shots in photomatrix

If AEB sounds complicated, you can bracket using exposure compensation by taking a shot at the metered exposure (ie with compensation set to 0) then bracket frames over and under that. This method is quick and efficient once you're used to it because you can bracket as many or as few frames as you like and the bracket can be customised to suit each situation. You can again use exposure compensation in all exposure modes except Full Auto.

The final method is to set your camera to manual mode so you have to set both the aperture and shutter speed. If you choose an aperture and shutter speed combination to get the correct exposure, to bracket exposures all you do is adjust either setting (or both) to increase or reduce the exposure. If you're not used to manual mode you may find this a little fiddly, but it does offer complete flexibility to bracket exposures however you like.

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