How to Use Auto Bracketing in HDR Photography

Auto bracketing in high dynamic range (HDR) photography enables you to shoot faster. A camera with a normal frame rate can shoot faster brackets than even the most dexterous photographer in manual mode. The faster your camera, the more scenes you can shoot that are hard or impossible manually — moving clouds, some foliage, people (in some circumstances). AEB also opens up the world of hand-held, bracketed HDR photography.

1

Set up your camera.

This example consists of five brackets at +/-1.0 EV, as shown on the meter in this figure.

2

Compose the scene.

You’ll keep the same composition for each shot.

3

Double-check the camera settings.

Nothing worse than thinking you’re going to take five nice brackets of a scene only to find out (after the fact) that you’re in the wrong shooting mode, forget to manually focus, and accidentally are at ISO 1600.

4

Meter the shot.

For most cameras, press the shutter release (or remote) button halfway down to meter the scene.

If you have a blazingly fast dSLR and are in continuous high-speed shooting mode, it’s easy to accidentally fire off ten shots while you’re trying to meter. Some cameras have alternate metering buttons.

5

If you’re in a shooting mode that requires you to set the exposure, do so by adjusting the shutter speed so that the EV index reads 0.0.

You might need to offset the exposure or change the metering mode in conditions with extreme highs or lows. The problem is that there is often no way of knowing this until after you take a round of brackets.

The example shots bear this out. The low bracket, shot at -2.0 EV, still blew out the clouds at the top right. Thankfully, you can manipulate Raw exposures easily in an editor. The exposure for this bracket was lowered to reveal details, and then saved as a new low bracket, adding to the total number. The final sequence was six exposures at -3/-2/-1/0/+1/+2 EV rather than the five original shots.

If you have a live histogram on your camera, you can use it to estimate whether you can capture the entire dynamic range in your sequence of brackets.

If you’re in a semi-automatic or programmed mode, the camera might set the exposure automatically.

6

Press and hold the shutter release button (or remote) to take the photos.

Bada bing, bada boom. One set of brackets, coming up! Notice that the difference between each exposure is not tremendous. This is because they are separated by +/- 1.0 EV. These brackets cover the same range as three exposures at +/-2.0 EV.

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