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Meter with Your Camera in HDR Photography

Using a preconceived bracketing strategy in high dynamic range (HDR) photography works well, but the downside is not knowing whether you’re really capturing the full dynamic range of the scene with the brackets (if you pay attention to a live histogram, you’re closer to knowing).

A more studious approach relies on metering highs and lows in the scene with your camera to come up with a more reliable estimate of how many brackets you should shoot.

To use your camera in place of an external light meter when bracketing for HDR photography, it is important to meter before mounting your camera on the tripod and composing the scene.

After you do this, moving the camera at all (which is necessary to perform the spot metering) destroys the composition. If you’re shooting hand-held brackets, you can meter and bracket more fluidly.

To use your camera to meter highs and lows in the scene, try these general steps and then bracket the scene:

  1. Set up your camera for manual bracketing.

  2. Perform a quick composition before you mount your camera on the tripod.

  3. Switch your camera to spot metering mode.

  4. Meter lows and highs.

  5. Switch your camera to matrix or evaluative metering mode.

  6. Take an average reading to set 0.0 EV.

  7. Mount your camera on the tripod.

  8. Dial in the final composition.

  9. Determine EV range and shoot brackets.

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