3 Common Exposure Bracketing Mistakes to Avoid

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Don’t the photos like these make you think “Wow!!”? They make you feel like you’re looking out of a window. Today’s cameras are not capable of handling the dynamic range of the scene like this. For this shot in Fiji, I had to use the camera’s high-speed exposure bracketing mode. This allowed me to capture the scene with three different exposures which I was able to combine using Photoshop Layers & Masks to form a natural looking image.

Exposure Bracketing Example after Post Processing, Mana Island Fiji

Exposure Bracketing Example after Post Processing, Mana Island Fiji

  • Exposure Bracketing Example +1.67 Fstop, Mana Island Fiji

    Exposure Bracketing Example +1.67 Fstop, Mana Island Fiji

  • Exposure Bracketing Example 0ev, Mana Island Fiji

    Exposure Bracketing Example 0ev, Mana Island Fiji

  • Exposure Bracketing Example +1.67 Fstop, Mana Island Fiji

    Exposure Bracketing Example -1.67 Fstop, Mana Island Fiji

In theory bracketing seem very simple… just take two or more shots (different shots with different exposures) until you have captured all the required details needed to create the final image. But as simple as this may sound, mistakes can ruin your bracketed shots. Here are some of these possible mistakes…

Not using a Tripod

One of the worst things you can do between bracketed shots is to move the camera. The more camera motion there is between the shots, the more difficult it is to align these shots later. This movement makes the blending of the bracketed shots a tedious task. You can always rely on software to do automatic alignment for you, but this is not always perfect and you lose sharpness as the software attempts to distort the bracketed shots to align them together. The easiest way to get around this problem is to use a tripod.

Exposure Bracketing Example after Post Processing, Namaskard, Iceland

Exposure Bracketing Example after Post Processing, Namaskard, Iceland

Not using a remote release or other hands free operation

Even when you are using a tripod, it’s best to use a remote release. Why? Because you can accidentally move the camera while triggering the bracketing shots using shutter release button. This problem is likely to happen if your tripod is not stable (if it is a lightweight tripod or you are standing on ground that is not firm). The easiest way to avoid the problem is to use a hands-free bracketing mode (if your camera supports it) where the camera fires two or more bracketed shots after a short delay; or purchase a remote release.

Bracketing a moving subject

Even if you are using a tripod and remote release, subject motion can ruin your bracketed photos by creating ghostly halos when you try to blend the bracketed shot together. Avoiding subject motion may be easy to say, but it’s harder to achieve and sometimes even impossible. In landscape photography, the motion of plants and trees due to wind has a potential to ruin your bracketed shots. If you are photographing near the ocean, wave motion can also interfere. One possible solution to avoid subject motion is to use a SINGLE RAW image to capture the entire dynamic range or use a GND filter to reduce the dynamic range. However, this solution is not always possible.

Check out our recently released Bracketing Exposed course to learn more about bracketing images. Have you ever made mistakes while bracketing your shots? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
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