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Exposure Bracketing

As a photographer, it can sometimes be difficult to get the correct exposure across your entire scene. I find this especially applies when taking landscape photographs with a bright sky and when taking photographs at night. This is when a technique known as exposure bracketing can be extremely useful. Exposure bracketing can increase the dynamic range of your camera so you don’t lose some of those details that inspired you to take the photograph in the first place.

So what is exposure bracketing? Simply put, it’s when you take a series of photos at different exposure levels, which you can then blend together to increase the dynamic range of the final image. It’s also sometimes known as HDR or exposure blending. Take these three photos for example:

Exposure bracketing example

In the first photo, the details in the building can be clearly seen, while everything else in the shot is extremely dark. In the second photo, the building is slightly blown out and most of the scene is still too dark, but some of the side details are starting to show up. In the third photo, the building is extremely blown out, but the details in the lawn and the underside of the trees are nice and clear. By combining these multiple exposures in Photoshop, I was able to create an image I was really happy with:

"Mount Timpanogos Temple at Night" (2017) by K. Bradley Washburn

Most digital cameras have a built-in function for exposure bracketing. The built-in function will take a series of 3-5 photos, depending on your camera. If more exposures are needed or desired, you can take a set of photos using exposure bracketing, adjust the base exposure, then take another set of photos. The above image was actually created using ten differently exposed photos, layered on top of each other in Photoshop.

Even if your camera doesn’t have a built-in function, you can still use exposure bracketing. Simply set up your camera and manually adjust the exposure between each shot.

Each camera manufacturer treats exposure bracketing differently, so I can’t go into detail on how to use it on your camera. You should consult the user manual for specifics concerning your camera.