Set Up Exposure Compensation for HDR Photography
Exposure compensation bracketing is a fantastic workaround for compact digital cameras when you want to take high dynamic range photos. It enables you to take a camera without manual controls or auto bracketing and manually bracket a scene. Bypass limitations and proceed directly to HDR!
This is how to get started with cameras that don’t have manual shooting mode or AEB. The example uses a Canon PowerShot A480 to illustrate. Follow these steps to get your camera set up to shoot brackets using exposure compensation:
Turn on the camera.
Make sure you are in shooting and not playback mode.
Always check to make sure that you have enough battery power to last for your shooting session.
Mount your camera on a tripod.
For compact digital cameras, this is a necessity. The things you have going against you are a slow frame rate and manual bracketing. Neither of these allow for hand-held bracketing.
Depending on your personal preference, you can get all the settings dialed into the camera while you hold it, and then mount it on the tripod.
Based on the specific capabilities of your camera, select an appropriate shooting mode.
Some cameras disable exposure compensation depending on the mode you are in. Consult your documentation to confirm which modes make exposure compensation available.
Choose a mode that suits the scene you are shooting. Auto is good all-around mode. Programmed Auto is good if your camera disables exposure compensation in auto mode (Canons do this), often abbreviated as P, and seen in the figure. Notice that for this camera, all shooting modes are accessed through the back screen by pressing the Mode button.
Scene mode offers different scenes to choose from, depending on the camera, such as Baby, Party, Sports, Landscape, Portrait, and so forth. The various modes seem to be multiplying, although they are fairly consistent within brands. Each mode will change the camera’s settings and optimize them for the given conditions.
Pay particular attention to your camera’s manual and identify the right scene that you are shooting. Focus, in particular, can be thrown off if the scene is set to something close (like Food) and you are outside and need focus set to infinity.
Choose picture quality, size, and other photo settings.
Choose the largest, best photo quality you can. This will result in the best HDR image down the road. In addition, you often have creative control over how the camera processes data from the sensor and converts it into a JPEG file format. You may have color or style options that produce a more vivid photo.
If possible, turn off the flash.
You don’t want the flash to fire, thinking it is making up for a bad exposure. You want the dark exposure to be dark.
If possible, set ISO to the lowest possible value, as shown.
This helps fight the noise battle. If raising ISO increases the noise on a $2,500 camera, you can imagine what it’s going to do on a $150 budget compact.
Turn off dynamic range optimization.
The point of HDR is to use bracketed photos to capture increased dynamic range. You want each photograph to be a true representation of the scene whether it is really bright or dark. DR optimizers, which often affect JPEGs and leave Raw photos alone, defeat this purpose.
If necessary (and possible), set focus to infinity and turn face detection off.
Some compact digital cameras have two or three auto focus modes, such as normal, macro, and infinity. At the very least, make sure you are not in macro mode unless you are shooting something very close. Infinity works very well assuming you are a reasonable distance away from the subject. Check to make sure what your minimum focus distance is or you won’t be able to focus on a close subject.
If desired, turn on LCD guide lines.
These little lines form a grid on the LCD and help you align and compose the shot.
If desired, turn photo review off.
When you manually bracket by altering the exposure control, you will be working hard to get the pictures fired off quickly for most scenes. You lose time when the camera decides to review each shot for 2 seconds.
If you need to, shoot a test shot and review it for the proper focus. Then get back in and shoot the entire thing without review.
At this point, your camera is set up and ready to shoot brackets.