THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BRACKETING
Photo Courtesy https://www.phototraces.com
Auto Exposure Bracketing is one of the most challenging aspects of a photograph to achieve. It is the thing that photographers seem to fail the most.
MAKING PHOTOGRAPHY A LITTLE EASIER
Auto Exposure Bracketing is a feature on most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that allows photographers to take more than one shot in a series, with automatic changes to each successive shot. The outcome is a collection of slightly different images, either to maximize the chances of having a perfect shot or to catch several images that will merge later. It is a simple way to overcome technological limitations and produce photographs that look real. It is the method of taking three photos:
- One using the correct camera setting
- One purposely underexposed
- One purposely overexposed
The photographer can pick one of the images after the photoshoot which actually has the ideal exposure depending on the needs or he/she can also combine all the photos with their varying exposures in one image using Lightroom or Photoshop. The reason is simply to make sure the photographer gets a good exposure from a subject that is difficult to meter.
“1-stop underexposed (-1 EV), correctly exposed (0 EV) and 1-stop overexposed (+1 EV)”
Photo Courtesy http://wersternking.co.za
WHY DO WE NEED AUTO EXPOSURE BRACKETING
A scene looks beautiful but sometimes a picture of that scene comes out with a black foreground and a white sky. Auto Exposure Bracketing will serve as a safety net against this problem. If the camera gets the exposure wrong, the blunder can be saved by one of the bracketed images. Another reason why we need bracketing is to mix up the images later in some way. For example, you can take the best pieces of bracketed images, load the files in photoshop as layers and mix them together.
AUTO EXPOSURE BRACKETING IN AUTOMATIC, SEMI-AUTOMATIC AND MANUAL MODE
Just change your exposure compensation from shot to shot in any semi-automatic mode.
Unless your camera has no auto-exposure bracketing, you’ll need to manually bracket the images. It would include a tripod to keep balancing the different pictures that you take. Set up your camera and then take an exposed shot manually. After doing so, raise your shutter speed by at least one stop to underexpose the second shot. The quick shutter speed means less light is allowed into the camera so that the image is underexposed.
Now, take the second picture. After taking the photo, increase your shutter speed by a minimum of 2 stops in total. The one advantage of manually bracketing the images is that the photographer has full control over the process. You can move the camera as far as you wish to gather dark or bright images, rather than depending on a fixed range of exposures to capture what you need.
Auto Exposure Bracketing varies from one camera manufacturer to another and from model to model of the same manufacturer. The following menu setting is popular for some cameras.
- Go to the menu and find a feature of bracketing. It is called AEB in some cameras that stands for Auto Exposure Bracketing. Activate this feature.
- On the screen of your camera, you will then see an exposure scale. Switch off the dials of the camera to separate the exposures.
Many cameras can allow five different exposures to be bracketed. Many experienced photographers consider using the amount of bracketed pictures the camera permits. Most cameras allow you to differentiate exposures by up to 2 stops. Set them apart by at least one stop.
However, if you are using a DSLR the following steps will enable AEB. Start by setting your camera to:
- Aperture Priority: If you’re in aperture priority mode and set for a 1 stop bracket shot, your camera will change the shutter speed and you’ll end up with these 3 exposures; 125th/sec at F8 — right exposure, 60th/sec at F8 — overexposed 1 stop and 250th/sec at F8— underexposed 1 stop.
The threat here or at least something to be mindful of is that the shutter speed is not in your control. It means that if during your auto exposure bracketing tests, the shutter speed goes too low to handhold, you can get camera shake so use a tripod if unsure.
- Shutter Speed Priority: If you’re in shutter priority mode, your camera will change the aperture and you’ll end up with these 3; F8 at 125th/sec – right exposure, F5.6 at 125th/sec – overexposed one-stop and F11 at 125th/sec – underexposed one stop.
Now you’re not in control of the aperture and the consequences of that are on the depth of field. As the aperture widens to allow more light to overexpose, the depth of field decreases, meaning less focus is on the image. The depth of field decreases as the aperture closes without underexposing. This means that the emphasis is on more of the shot.
- Then, find a button on the back of your camera called either AEB or BKT. You’ll see a scale then – you can use this scale to indicate where you want to position your stops.
- Then click the shutter to take your pictures in brackets.
“Bracketing button on Nikon D7000”
Photo Courtesy www.photographylife.com
Tripod is a great tool for Auto Exposure Bracketing but it isn’t mandatory. That should keep the photos aligned exactly the same way. If you don’t have a convenient tripod, you can always keep the camera as steady as possible to take the exposures. If you combine the images in Photoshop later, align the pictures but if you use HDR software the software will automatically align the images.
The good news is that Auto Exposure Bracketing makes the entire process very quick, so figuring out how your camera system function is worthwhile.
SITUATIONS WHERE BRACKETING DOES NOT WORK
Auto Exposure Bracketing is a perfect strategy to make exposure dead-on. Yet though these shots are one right after another, the minor delay might not be for every shooting situation. It has been advised by experienced photographers to leave bracketing to conditions that are not so fast-paced. Architectural photography, Landscape photography, Studio photography, and so on are all perfect opportunities to bracket the images.
Using AEB also means you’re going to take three times as many pictures in about the same amount of time. That means your SD card will fill up three times faster and your hard drive will also fill up quickly if you don’t go through and delete the exposures you don’t need.
MERGING BRACKETED PHOTOS INTO HDR
A lot of applications allow us to combine images into a single HDR. All have their pros and cons. It all comes down to personal preferences that fit best with the current workflow.
Lightroom and Photoshop are the most common software that photographers use for editing. Both of the software can fuse frames into one single image. You have to pick the brackets, and then click ‘Merge to HDR’ and that’s all you have to do. There are a few things to know that are important. Your images may include movable objects such as trees or flying birds, making it more difficult to combine. In these cases, try the option of de-ghosting offered by such devices. This function will attempt to get rid of all movements of objects. Set the de-ghosting number according to the scene. Small or medium works usually well enough. To verify, zoom into the part with moving objects to see if there are any objects. De-ghosting and merging both do a satisfactory job.
There are these basic steps:
- Place all the frames into the layers
- Select all the layers to merge
- Select Edit and go to Auto-Align pictures.
- Go to Edit, and then click on Auto-Blend.
“Interior HDR image created using Photoshop layers and Lightroom brushes”
Photo Courtesy https://expertphotography.com
HDR is a very common method of blending bracketed images. It stands for High Dynamic Range and it aims to take an image where extreme lights and extreme darks are present and blend the two images in proportion to produce a high dynamic range image. But there is confusion with the HDR. Mainly because many people who practice HDR, overdo it to produce photographs that can be recognized easily as HDR photographs and hence, many photographers believe that this is a clever trick.
“HDR is a favorite of landscapes photographers”
Photo Courtesy Robert Lukeman
- It is fast processing which is perfect for bulk jobs.
- It uses Tone Mapping which allows one to adjust the range of shadows and highlights.
- Professionals appreciate it less because the output is often of low quality.
- Default presets are usually not up to the mark, so selecting them yourself is better.
Exposure Fusing is another technique for using bracketed images. It’s not kind of an HDR. It’s fairly a new idea. Exposure Fusing is about taking the best pixels from all the images and putting them to the final frame. If a pixel is good or bad, it depends on several variables such as color intensity, low noise level, etc. In short, EF takes the best bits from every image in the series and blends them smoothly to produce a final ‘Fused’ image.
Exposure Fusing Pros:
- This could help in noise reduction – this makes it ideal for night and long-exposure HDR pictures where noise is normally a problem.
- Images work quite naturally.
Exposure Fusing Cons:
- Images lose local contrast as compared to images with tone mapping.
“Photo after Exposure Fusion”
Photo Courtesy https://photo.stackexchange.com/
WHY SHOULD YOU SWITCH OFF AEB AFTER THE SHOOT
You should always remember to turn off the bracketing feature once you have done taking the images. Bracketing by definition means more than a single shot for a specific scene. And if you fail, by some chance, to turn it off, all subsequent pictures will experience the same process of under and overexposure. Some recent camera structures also offer Auto turn off bracketing sequence. If you’ve got it on your camera you should definitely try it out.
OTHER TYPES OF BRACKETING
Focus bracketing is similar to exposure bracketing. Photos are shot from multiple focal points and then merged in Photoshop to create an image of more depth of field than a single exposure. Photos that are taken using focus bracketing also need significant post-production work to enhance the picture further.
“Manual Focus Bracketing”
Photo Courtesy https://expertphotography.com
WHITE BALANCE BRACKETING
Multiple photos of a scene with various color temperatures are captured in white balance bracketing. Compared to exposure and focus bracketing, it is the same and only the white balance shifts in each shot. White balance bracketing is used in cases where different forms of light are mixed. In these situations, the camera’s auto white balance option would fail to detect the appropriate color temperature, resulting in an incorrect white balance.
“Before and After White Bracketing”
Photo Courtesy https://digital-photography-school.com
THINGS YOU SHOULD KEEP IN MIND WHILE DOING BRACKETING
- Bracketing in aperture priority mode will change the aperture value. Let’s assume you’ve metered a scene at 1/500 of a second at f/4 (in aperture priority mode). You also set AEB to take three shots at 1 stop compensation. The camera will take the first shot at 1/500 of a second, at f/4. The next shot will be taken at f/4 at 1/250 of a second and the last shot will be taken at f/4 at 1/1000 of a second.
- AEB can only function in program mode, aperture priority and shutter priority mode. It won’t work in programmed auto mode and manual mode. Since the camera has no control over the exposure in manual mode, the ultimate control is in your hand, you’ll need to adjust the exposure yourself.
- It’s the aperture that is moved around in shutter priority mode. However, this can be a little troublesome if you are unable to adjust the depth of field. Ideally, therefore, AEB is best used in priority aperture mode.
Bracketing is no substitute for learning how to take good pictures for the very first time. But nobody gets the perfect exposure every time and a little effort is worth it to boost the chances of a good outcome.
Hopefully, if anyone used bracketing rarely or never before, he or she now has a good idea when to try it out. Especially for landscape photography, it is a friendly safety technique. You can use it to make sure you get the right shot at all times, use it to create a composite whole that looks so much more like you would see your subject in real life.
We hope you found this article helpful. You are always welcome to give suggestions in the comments section below. To learn more about photography, please check out blog.chiiz.com.
About the Author:
Pratiksha Sharma is our desperate writer. She is always asking for more articles to write on. She has the energy of a teenager. Well, she is a teenager :-). But, her writings are way more forward. She is pursuing English Honors since she is a bookworm. Her hobbies are writing, playing video games and traveling. She wants to excel in writing with perseverance, hard work, and dedication.