What is Bracketing?

-2 Stops (Source: Wikipedia)
+2 Stops (Source: Wikipedia)
+4 Stops (Source: Wikipedia)


Bracketing is a term you should familiarize yourself with as you learn to shoot manually with your camera.  It will prove invaluable when you are shooting something you’d really like to get right but are not yet 100% comfortable with your abilities using your camera in manual mode.  There are a few different types of bracketing including exposure bracketing, ISO bracketing, depth of field bracketing, focus bracketing, flash bracketing, and white balance bracketing.  I will explain what exposure bracketing is and I think that you will be able to figure out the rest of them once you have an understanding of what bracketing is.

Exposure Bracketing

In most camera’s settings there is a setting where you can set automatic exposure bracketing where when you snap your picture the camera will automatically snap two other pictures at the same time.  One picture will be a stop or two below your settings and the other will be one or two stops above your initial settings.  Some cameras make you snap three consecutive pictures while others will do this automatically.  This gives you a little grace if you may have botched the settings from the get go.  Depending on the camera you can customize the amount of adjustments you want your camera to make for each exposure (one stop, two stops, etc).  So in a nutshell, when you use exposure bracketing you are telling your camera you want three pictures: one lighter, one normal, and one darker.

Note:  Exposure bracketing can be helpful when you’re creating a fade in fade out effect like you would have in a power point presentation or screen saver.
Exposure bracketing is accomplished by adjusting either ISO, shutter speed, or aperture.  If you are adamant that you’d like either shutter speed or aperture to stay where they are then you’ll have to switch to either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority respectively while using bracketing mode.

Now that you understand exposure bracketing the rest should make sense.  If you do focus bracketing the camera will give you different photos with a focus on different focal planes.  You can combine them in post processing to get everything in focus (in macro perhaps) or you can choose the one that is focused exactly where you’d like.  The other bracketing modes work very much the same just with different settings being adjusted.  Best bet is to play around with it and get comfortable with everything your camera can do.  The more you learn now the less you’ll have to do in post processing.  Good luck.

Other Photography 101 Tips:

What is Shutter Priority Mode?”
The Difference Between Raw and JPEG
What is Aperture Priority Mode?
How to Use Your Circular Polarized Filter
Camera Lens Filter Guide
What is the “Rule of Thirds”?
How to Photograph Moving Water
Simple Guide to Using Your Camera in Manual Mode

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