What is “Exposure Bracketing”

The word “bracketing” is a military term that dates back to artillery units firing at a distant target.  If they zeroed in on a single distance, any error would make each shot a miss.  If they instead “bracketed” their target by shooting within a range of distances, some would be long and some short, but some would be right on target.

Many cameras are equipped to “exposure-bracket” automatically (AEB).  The images above show a bracketed set:  The top picture is the camera’s attempt to get the shot right in one shot.  Then next one is the same scene that’s 1 stop darker, and the last is 1 stop brighter than the first one.   In this sequence, notice the bright “highlight” areas (eg. the computer screen) and the dark “shadow” areas (eg. the man’s hand on the keyboard).  Picture number 2 has the best screen, and picture #3 has the best hand.  Now watch as the three shots are blended together in a photo-editing program:Blending is only one advantage of exposure-bracketing.  Even if you’re not an editor, it can be a great safety net to be sure that at least one of your shots has the right exposure.  A tripod is essential when shooting brackets for blending.

Author’s note:  Today most of my paid shooting is for product photography.  Because my subjects are never moving, I shoot from a tripod and exposure bracket almost 100% of my shots.  I’m in aperture priority with the ISO set at 100 (for noise-free shots), leaving the shutter to do all the exposure adjustments.  Without this procedure, I’d take down my 585photo.com website immeditately.

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