Understanding What Is Bracketing In Photography For Getting The Perfect Exposure Every Time

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Having good photography skills and clicking great pictures is all about managing the lighting. Using artificial lights is not possible in every photoshoot. 

While shooting outdoors, you need artificial lights to modify the frame a little, but sometimes it becomes impossible to get that support. Most outdoor photographers are at the behest of nature’s mercy to get perfect lighting for their shots. Either you find the shot being overexposed, or nothing is visible in the fame at all.  

However, exposure bracketing is one technique that most photographers use for clicking pictures in a badly lit frame. It helps them to show their creativity during editing, as they no longer have to worry about modifying the brightness just to save the images. 

In this article, we will discuss what is bracketing in photography and how to click better pictures with it.

Understanding The Bracketing Feature

Simply speaking, exposure bracketing is a feature that enables photographers to click good pictures by giving them a variety of exposure settings. 

It means that the photographer gets to click three to five pictures with different exposures. Later, they can analyze each shot and segregate them as per exposures. Some will be overexposed, some will have dull lighting, but amidst these pictures, they will eventually find one with the best natural exposure. 

Primarily, it is based on a comparative analysis of pictures. If you do not click three or more pictures, you will have less content to compare, and therefore, a difficult choice to make.

The uses of exposure bracketing do not stop here. Once you choose the ideal shot, you can combine the other pictures with Photoshop or Lightroom apps and get the perfect picture out of them. 

How Is It Different From Metering? 

Those who have some experience in handling digital cameras might now ask, aren’t metering modes sufficient for providing the optimum exposure? 

If you have a digital camera, your priority should be to use metering for checking the exposure. However, metering modes work well only when the average brightness of different zones of a frame has the same approximate predictable value. 

As a photographer, you must know that at least in outdoor frames, this will rarely be the case. Finding a frame where every element has the same approximate value is difficult. 

When To Use Bracketing? 

Any given scene can have a large number of brightness values in its elements. Our eyes coordinate with our brain to appreciate a contrast between two elements in terms of brightness, and to understand what they represent. However, it does not work so effectively with digital cameras. 

When you shoot a scene with a variety of zones that fall under a large spectrum of brightness values, it is difficult for the camera to pick out and focus on details in every zone. Therefore, it is often seen that in scenes with bright daylight, where a lot of shadows are also produced, the stark contrast does not allow the camera to click clear pictures in high-resolution.

Now the problem arises is that while you can shoot and capture every detail in one part of the frame, you will end up sacrificing the details in the other part. It is in this situation that exposure bracketing helps. 

With exposure bracketing, the camera uses the best range of values that can cater to the specific details of each element in the frame. By clicking several pictures, you can analyze which elements look good under bright light, and which ones are better when left underexposed. 

So, when you click multiple pictures, each of these values corresponds to the brightness levels of every zone of the scene. In the end, you will obtain one or maybe two pictures where the overall exposure will be perfect. 

a. Manual Bracketing

ISO bracketing is a type of manual bracketing technique. When you use the digital camera in its manual mode, by keeping the aperture and shutter speed constant, you can manually adjust the light gain. Using this manual exposure bracketing feature is helpful when you want to customize your shots. 

So, it is a simple drill. You take a shot, change aperture and shutter as per your liking and move on to the next shot with the same angles. 

b. Auto Bracketing

It is possible to take pictures using the exposure bracketing technique in the auto mode as well. You will first have to select the aperture and the shutter speed priority modes on your camera. Then, locate and press an AKT switch on the camera. 

Once you are ready with the angles, press the shutter button thrice, and you are ready to capture your pictures with the exposure bracketing technique.

c. Using Bracketing with HDR

When you aim to obtain perfect exposure for your pictures, there is no single technique or feature that alone can help you. While exposure bracketing helps you to choose the perfect shot, you can enhance the lighting in the frame by using High Dynamic Range or HDR effects. You can use High Dynamic Range features while compiling pictures that you clicked using bracketing. 

However, most outdoor photographers prefer clicking pictures with the High Dynamic Range mode and later apply the exposure bracketing feature during compilation in Photoshop.

Is It Always Useful? 

Using the exposure bracketing mode is not helpful in all cases. Suppose you want to click pictures of an ongoing sports event. When you use the exposure bracketing feature, the camera will click three or five pictures. 

However, the time delay between these pictures will not be enough, as the event is proceeding fast. Therefore, when you check pictures later, none of them will have that ideal exposure that you are expecting.


The hardest thing in photography is to get an idea of the perfect exposure parameters for a given frame. While using the best camera lenses can help, this alone does not guarantee good exposure. 

When you use features like exposure bracketing, you have the liberty of clicking multiple pictures, knowing that at least one of them will have perfect exposure. In this article, we discussed what is bracketing in photography. You can use the steps mentioned above to use this method with both auto and manual mode. 

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Marco Downs

Marco Downs

Marco Downs is our second founder and he is the creative head of this website. Marco stumbled upon photography only in college when he joined the photography club. His parents could never afford a camera for him as a child and it was in college that he saved up and bought his first camera. He now writes in-depth buyer guides and informational articles to assist the buyers. 
Marco Downs

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