tracey medcalfe photography | You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Bracketing

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Bracketing

November 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Bracketing
Good morning and welcome to the first November blog. This is the final month for the 'You're Smarter Than Your Camera' blog and this month I have just picked three functions on most DLSR cameras that we haven't covered and that are useful to understand and make use of in certain situations. This week I have chosen bracketing.  This is a useful technique which helps you to get the images you perhaps don't have enough time or equipment to make a judgement on the camera settings the image will need.  It is also used in creating HDR images.  It is a little more advanced than my usual blog for the first week of the month so if you don't feel like having a go...don't worry, its just useful to know it's there and then when you have it in the back of you mind as an can try it out when you think it might work best!

So go ahead...soak it up!

Enjoy and thanks for reading,

What is the Point of Bracketing?
Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what the ideal exposure is to get the most out of a scene or subject.  It could be to do with how little time you have to shoot the subject, like a sunset for example.  Or it could be that there is a high 'dynamic range' within the scene.  I.e. there are lots of shadow areas and also lots of brighter areas.  You may not be sure exactly how much of each you want to display in your final image.  Bracketing could help you out.
How do I Bracket?
Bracketing is a term for a sequence of frames of the same image that are shot in rapid succession and all at different exposures. Typically the number of shots is between 3 and 5 and each exposure differs from the next by somewhere between 1/3 of a stop and a full stop or even 2 stops.  You should start with the exposure that you think is correct for the subject.  The following shots are then taken on either side of that resulting in the 'correct' exposure (bracketed or sandwiched) between exposures either side of it.

Your camera may offer an automated bracketing feature (AEB) where it best guesses the difference in exposures for the multiple images.  Also, you may have a manual option to bracket.  If you are manually bracketing, make sure you only change the shutter speed and not the aperture as you don't want to change the depth of field.  When you come to blend your images later, it will be difficult or impossible to blend them with differing depths of field.
Below are three example images where the exposure changes by 1 stop.  The first is my best guess at exposure.  The second, is exposed by an additional 1 stop and the third is underexposed from the first by 1 stop.  You can see that there are areas of darkness and brightness and during development, I could use the combination of these images to ensure I revealed all areas of the image to the viewers.
This diagram shows the light meter for each of the three images above - 
What is HDR Photography?
We did mention HDR photography a few months back.  I have to admit that I'm not a fan of is just looks to unreal and the image looks technically created, which I guess it is.  Bracketing can help tremendously if you want to create these images as it creates the full set of images from which you can create the HDR image.  

Cambridge in Colour website does a great article on HDR and also has some really good examples of when you can use it, not just to create the technical images that are in vogue -
Next Time
Next week the topic is spot metering. This combines a number of functions that we have looked at over the year - focus, exposure etc.  We will look at the benefits of spot metering
Your Challenge
Have a look at the manual for your camera and see how bracketing works.  Have a go with your favourite subject.  If you like photoshop, you might like to combine your images to give a HDR image. 
Thanks so much for reading and as always, I would love to hear any comments or questions you have.  
Have fun with your photography,
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