When a photographer faces lighting challenges, such as a bright sunset glowing over a dark mountain (above), “bracketing” is one way to compensate. Bracketing is where at least three identical shots are taken: one is slightly underexposed, one is taken at the recommended exposure, and the third is slightly overexposed. The three shots can then be combined to produce a scene with perfect lighting.
This is an advanced technique, but there is an easy way to do this, even for beginners. There are three ways to bracket a set of pictures:
- Manually — You will need a tripod to do this. Dial in a negative exposure compensation and take your shot. Then, being careful not to move the camera, set the EV (exposure value) to normal, and finally, take a third shot with the EV set above the recommended value.
- Automatically — Many cameras have an “auto-bracketing” function. You just select how many pictures you wish the camera to take and set the value of the over- and under-exposure. You’ll also need a tripod for this method.
- Digitally — This is the easiest way. Use a software program, such as Photomatix, and select the number of shots to include in the bracket and exposure value for each. You can do this even if you only took one shot initially. Simply duplicate the photograph and select the original and duplicates into the program and it will bracket them for you.
There is a brief “how-to” on bracketing at Dummies.com, but I hope to include some tutorial videos on this blog soon, and this is one I believe would be helpful. The photo below is untouched, so you can see the difference this technique can make in your photos: