How to Bracket For A Shot

escalante rivers-

Two or three days ago I posted this image to Facebook to a hand full of groups.  In that I mentioned briefly that this image was a bracketed shot to incorporate the entire dynamic range. I usually say things like this and I didn’t think much of it.

A few hours later a fellow photographer asked how I get the dynamic range so perfect and explain bracketing.

I thought about it for a second and decided I should actually write a blog post about bracketing shots and how to get the full dynamic range… at least how I do it.

Step One: The Set Up

I compose the shot… Yup thats it.

Step Two: I decided what I need to do for the bracketed shot.

I first flipped the camera to live view mode and set my f-stop and my ISO. All other exposure settings were made with the shutter speed.

The most basic aspect of what I do is simply expose towards the center. Canon cameras have a exposure bar across the bottom of the screen in live view mode. It can also be seen in the eye piece or on top of the camera on advanced models. The center exposure looked like this.

image 1

The camera tries to expose for everything. In the process it blows out the trees and the background. That’s fine. I only wanted the ground and the water for this shot. This image takes care of all my shadowy areas. Now I need to take care of bright areas.

Step 3: The other two images

Now I wanted to get the back wall exposed properly. I simply increase my shutter speed until it looks good on the back of the LCD screen. I checked the histogram and it still said the there were areas that were still over exposed. This image was one stop below the first if my memory serves me correctly.

image 2


I then increased my shutter speed even more until the histogram looked right along with the back of my LCD screen. In fact I do a lot of my adjustments simply by looking at the back of my LCD screen and adjusting it until it looks good. This was the final image of the three.

image 3

Once I have decided my three exposures I go to the menu settings and set the bracketing image to one stop away from center. This will give me a three bracketed automatic setting when I start taking the images. I have a 2 second timer so the moment I click the shutter it will take all three images. The less camera touching the better. I then set the exposure properly and take the shot. After each shot sequence I go back and look at the images and decided how it looks and I adjust and redo it.

Afterwards I opened them up in Lightroom and separately adjusted each image to look how I wanted.

The Edit

After I finished each image in lightroom I opened it all up in Photoshop in separate layers. So I line up everything in a particular order. The ground/closest thing to me, I have be the bottom layer. I then simply step back from near to far and layer appropriately.  From there I put a layer mask on the two top images (image 2 and 3 in this blog) and invert them to black by pushing ctrl+I. From there I grab a paint brush and change the color to white and “paint” on the layer mask. The things that are painted white will show up the things that are black are hidden.

To do this properly you will have to change the opacity of the paint brush so that it does not look bad.

For the final touch up I simply painted in the leaves from image 3. That is all I used for that image.

A few more edits and necessary but the image was essentially done after that.


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