How to Bracket Exposure

Have you ever been in a tricky lighting situation and can’t seem to figure out what is the best exposure? Either the subject is dark and the background is blown out or vise-versa.

Bracketing your exposure is a technique that many photographers use in challenging lighting situations.  If you pull out your camera manual you will probably find an AEB feature, which is Auto Exposure Bracketing. 

What is bracketing exactly? Exposure bracketing means that you take two more pictures: one slightly under-exposed (usually by dialing in a negative exposure compensation, say -1/3EV), and the second one slightly over-exposed (usually by dialing in a positive exposure compensation, say +1/3EV), again according to your camera’s light meter.  I am telling you open up your manual because your camera may have a feature that can do this for you automatically.

If  you do not have this automatic feature do not fret, you can easily do it manually.  If you set your camera dial on AV(aperture priority), TV (shutter priority) or M (manual) you can make these manual exposure adjustments.

If you look through the view finder of your camera is should look something like this.   You see the little yellow line at the very bottom?  That scale is your exposure indicator and the yellow line indicates the correct exposure.  Now if you are looking through you viewfinder and you turn the dial you will see that the line will move left, which is to under expose and right, which is to over expose.  Now depending on what setting your on (AV, TV or M) your exposure is manipulated but changing the aperture or shutter speed.   After you turn your dial left, take a picture, then take a picture at the null point and finally at take one with your dial turning right.  You have officially bracketed exposure manually.  Play with it.


Why would you do this?  There are times that your camera gets tricked by the light.  Say your subject is in the shade on a bright sunny day.  When you take the photo and you meter off your subject the background gets blown out or over exposed.  If you were to meter off the background then your subject is going to be too dark. Bugger!   So you bracket to help you get a correct or the best exposure.

Here is a shot where I bracketed the exposure.  The first image is over-exposed, the middle is correctly exposed and the last image is under exposed.


 Now after looking at the images, I think I would like something between the first and second.  I like how the flowers are exposed but I prefer the background of the first image.  What can I do?

Another very cool thing about bracketing exposure is by using the layers feature in on Photoshop you can load all the shots on different layers and then carefully erase the over & under exposed areas, allowing you to tweak the exposure of the picture.  I will show you how on my next photography post.

To be continued…………

I will be doing some editing on the plane on my way to FL.


  1. says

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your site?
    Its vedry well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe yyou ould a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.

    Youve goot an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures.

    Maybe you could space iit out better?

  2. Marcus Boone says

    I love your “lessons”. I have been shooting professionally since the 80’s and am still learning new things from you. Thank you.


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