How to Bracket your photos

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Ouzud, Morocco

Ouzud, Morocco

When you see an image like this one, you can almost feel the waterfall spray on your face, hear the crashing waters and smell the wet, tropical air. With beaming light mirroring the silky white cascades, it seems like you could almost step right into the scene and watch the water fall. How was Jay able to create such a natural-looking image of such a spectacular place?

As you may have guessed, images like these require more than a single shot. If you want to capture all those tropical details, you’ll have to bracket your exposures. The idea of bracketing seems pretty simple: just point your camera at the scene, take an underexposed and overexposed shot and blend them together later in post-processing. But life is rarely that simple. When I pointed the camera at the waterfalls, this is what I saw:

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    Dark Exposure @ -1.67 Stops

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    What the Camera Saw

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    Lighter Exposure @ +1.67 Stops

If I had relied on my camera’s automated exposure bracketing option and simply taken one overexposed and one underexposed shot, it would not have given me the data I needed. The lighter shot is completely useless because the shadows are overexposed. While the darker shot does offer some extra details in the highlights, the area around the sun is still pretty severely overexposed.

So how did I end up with a shot I liked? I followed a simple manual bracketing workflow:

  1. I set my aperture and ISO to ensure that everything in the image was sharply in focus. I was careful to capture the photo at the lowest possible ISO to keep the noise level to a minimum.
  2. I payed close attention to my camera’s meter and my histogram so that I could determine where and how to set my bracketing range to capture all the details in the shadows and highlights.

I decided to manually override my camera’s default bracketing settings and ended up taking these bracketed shots:

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    Darker Image @ -3.34 stops

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    Dark Image @ -1.67 Stops

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    What the camera saw

If you’d like to learn how you can be confident when it comes to bracketing images, we have a brand new course just for you. Bracketing Exposed, the first course in our Apprentice Series, will walk you through a simple, non-technical workflow to help you to determine the exact bracketing range needed to capture all the details in your image using your camera’s meter and histogram. This course is a perfect supplement for those who have mastered using histograms to determine proper exposure. It will show you when you can get away without bracketing and it will explain when manual bracketing is a better choice than your camera’s automated bracketing options.

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.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams