Two-Stop Bracketing

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Today’s Question: You said [during the “Creating Stunning HDR Images” presentation at PhotoPlus Expo] that you had bracketed a set of captures by one stop. But you also said you recommend bracketing in two-stop increments. So was there a reason you bracketed by one stop for the images you showed?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Bracketing in two-stop increments is absolutely more than adequate for creating high dynamic range (HDR) images. The only reason I sometimes use one-stop bracketing for some images is that I generally prefer to change the bracketing increments rather than changing the number of shots included with automatic exposure bracketing (AEB).

More Detail: The camera I typically use for capturing HDR images is capable of bracketing with up to seven exposures. It also includes settings for five and three exposures for automatic bracketing. I generally prefer to alter the increments for the bracketing rather than changing the number of exposures to capture, simply because it is easier on my camera to adjust the bracketing increments than to change the number of bracketed exposures.

In other words, this is all a matter of expediency when dealing with the process of making changes to the camera’s settings. In my case it is much easier to adjust the bracketing increments and the overall exposure compensation than it is to go deeper into the menu and change how many images are being captured when the automatic exposure bracketing feature is used.

I’d rather have more captures than I need than not enough, so I keep the number of bracketed shots set to the maximum (seven exposures in my case). When I am dealing with an extreme high dynamic range situation, I will bracket by two stops per exposure for a total of seven exposures. When the situation clearly does not require such a significant range, I will reduce the bracketing increment to one stop rather than changing the number of exposures.

Ultimately I aim for having photos with exposures separated by two stops each, with enough captures to cover the full tonal range of the scene I’m photographing. Determining how to reach that goal depends on your personal preferences as well as the specific features and usability considerations of your camera.