Getting More out of Your Camera: Bracketing

Sunday, 10 March 2013

As you know, I recently upgraded to a Canon 650D, so I'm in the mood to get back on that learning curve and ramp up my photography skills a bit.

So here is the first in a series of posts where I'll look at a particular area of photography and share what I discover when experimenting with my new camera.

Project 1: Bracketing

Taking a series of shots (usually 3) of a subject using different camera settings.
Bracketing examples could be ~
* Exposure
* Depth of field
* White Balance
* Flash
* Focus
* ISO 

For this project I'm going to look at exposure and white balance bracketing.

~ Exposure Bracketing ~

In pre-digital photography this was a useful way to ensure you ended up with the best exposed shot you could once you'd developed your film. Nowadays, although you can check each shot on your LCD as you go, bracketing can be an interesting and exciting way to achieve unexpected results and it helps you to produce a balanced final picture in situations where you have a wide dynamic range i.e. brighter areas combined with darker areas. Increasingly, exposure bracketing is becoming known as HDR photography (High Dynamic Range).

Admittedly there's not going to be any huge excitement generated from these pictures taken around and about at home, but you can see the differing results and hopefully understand how the concept may be usefully applied in other contexts.

Many cameras have an exposure bracketing function which automatically sets up your 3 shots for you: look for the AEB function (Automatic Exposure Bracketing). That's what I've used in the pictures here.  However, you can equally set up bracketing manually by changing your exposure settings yourself.

     Regular exposure: 0
     Under exposure: -1 stop (results in a 'darker' picture)
     Over exposure: +1 stop (results in a 'lighter' picture)

Buzz Word:
'Stop' refers to how wide the lens aperture is open: the wider, the more light it lets in and the lighter the photo looks, the more closed, the less light can enter and the darker the resulting picture.

How far apart you can set your bracketing will depend on your camera, most range from 0.25 - 3 stops in each direction.

+1 Stop

-1 Stop

~ White Balance Bracketing ~

This is useful for situations with mixed lighting, where you might want to achieve bluer or redder tones than the camera's standard settings give you.  True, you can play with the white balance at the processing stage, but there's still some fun to be had and a few things to be learnt from adjusting WB as you go along.

Again, I explored my camera's auto WB-BKT function, which takes a sequence of 3 pictures in the following order:

1. Standard Bias
2. Blue Bias
3. Amber Bias
1. Standard Bias
2. Magenta Bias
3. Green Bias







I think the differences are pretty subtle, certainly more so than in the exposure bracketing examples, but there are times when this level of detail and precision make all the difference to your shot.


So that's a quick intro to bracketing.  I'm going to have a go at using it with some landscape and portrait shots to see what effects I can achieve there.

Next up on the blog, I'll be looking at high and low key photography to see how best I can use my camera to achieve lighter and darker pictures.

Check back soon!

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