Learn to bracket exposures

Rebecca Greig

Capture multiple images at different exposure values to simulate a HDR effect in Photoshop

Learn to bracket exposures

Getting the right exposure is often one of the most challenging aspects of photography and achieving a perfect exposure in one single frame can be difficult, with compromises to either the shadows or the highlights frequently required.

The use of neutral density filters is one solution to this, but in the digital age many photographers opt instead to shoot multiple exposures and then merge them in Photoshop.

It doesn’t take that much time to merge exposures manually in Photoshop – you can also simplify the shooting process itself by setting your camera to bracket the exposures automatically to capture multiple frames with different exposure values. The number of frames and the difference between each frame can be customised according to your needs.

This approach is ideal for any scenario in which there is a high dynamic range, or for situations in which you want to provide yourself with a safety net to ensure that you don’t lose important detail. It’s also useful for photographers who do not own – or do not
like using – filters.

In this tutorial we’ll take a look at how bracket exposures correctly to ensure that you capture the full range of tones in images. By defining the difference between the brackets, you can create a HDR image with impact.

Learn to bracket exposures

  • Activate auto bracketing Most cameras boast some form of automatic-bracketing feature. Without it, you’d need to manually bracket exposures. On some models, bracketing is found in a menu, not via a button.
  • Specify the parameters You can usually tell the camera how many exposures to capture, from two to as many as seven. You can also set the stops between each exposure, which might be just one stop or three

    .Learn to bracket exposures

  • Use a tripod When bracketing, you want as much as possible to stay the same – just the exposure value should vary. You could set the camera to continuous drive mode, but a tripod is the best option where practical.

  • Learn to bracket exposures

  • Lock the focus With keeping everything consistent in mind, it’s wise to autofocus and then switch the focus mode into manual mode before you start shooting to avoid any mishaps during the bracketing sequence.

  • Set exposure mode If you were to use Shutter Priority mode, the camera would automatically vary the aperture as it bracketed the exposures – bad news, as depth of field would vary. Instead, select Aperture Priority.

  • Learn to bracket exposures

  • Merge the exposures Open the bracketed shots in Photoshop and merge them into a layer stack. Use layer masks, the Brush tool and Gradient tool to create a blend that maximises the potential of each exposure.

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