Learn Digital Photography – Understanding Exposure Bracketing


Have you ever been in the situation when you are not quite sure what your exposure settings should be? You have taken the step of not shooting on automatic and you are little nervous that your photo will come out too dark or too light. You think that the aperture setting you’ve chosen is correct but are not completely sure. Then bracket your exposures.Most advanced compact cameras and all digital SLRs have this feature that brackets automatically. But what is bracketing? Bracketing is when you choose an aperture setting that you think is perfect and then add a little insurance. Film photographers did this all the time in order to be sure they got the perfectly exposed shot.So what’s insurance got to do with photography you may ask? Basically what you do is take three shots of the same scene or subject at the same time using three different aperture settings. With the automatic exposure bracketing feature you simply tell the camera to take three photos, one at your chosen aperture, one at a third, half or two thirds of a stop higher or lower than that setting. You need to choose how far over or under you want to go. What’s nice about this feature is you can go over or under in thirds or half stops depending on the camera. Another bonus is that the camera uses the multiple shot feature to take three shots in quick succession by holding down the shutter button.

You can use automatic exposure bracketing in both aperture priority (Av) and shutter priority (Tv). The only difference when using it with aperture priority is that you choose an aperture and the camera chooses three variations of the shutter speed. Conversely when you choose a shutter speed in Tv mode the camera will choose three variations of an aperture.Now this is all well and good if you have an advanced compact camera or DSLR. But what if you don’t have this automatic feature. No problem. There is a way around it. You wouldn’t be able to use the multiple shot feature to take in quick succession. You would need to do it manually.First choose the aperture setting you think is correct or the one recommended by the camera and shoot your first image. Then change your aperture to one stop above the recommended setting and then again one stop under the recommended setting. Voila! You’ve bracketed your shot and are guaranteed, using my insurance theory, to get the correct exposure out of the three shots you’ve taken. The only little problem you may have is that you are bracketing using a full stop instead of the range of half stops and thirds using an automatic bracketing feature.But, again I have a little solution to your problem. There’s another setting that most compacts have and all DSLRS have. That’s called aperture compensation. You’ll have to read your manual to discover how to use it. Each camera is different. When you are bracketing manually you change the setting by one stop over or under. The aperture compensation setting allows you to change the aperture by one third or half a stop giving you more flexibility and better exposures.

Of course manual shooting does not limit you to only three shots like the automatic mode. You can take as many images as you need to ensure the perfect exposure. What you need to remember is that bracketing is an essential part of any photographer’s tool bag of skills. The skill is knowing when to use it and in what conditions. This can be learned by experimenting and then practising. Practise makes perfect so keep at it until you have buttoned down. Happy shooting!