When you are shooting images you intend to combine into a high dynamic range (HDR) image you usually want one image at the recommended exposure, one image under exposed by 2 stops and one image overexposed by 2 stops. Most DSLR cameras today can capture these three images quickly and easily using a feature called auto exposure bracketing. Your camera probably has a button or menu item called AEB or BKT to activate this feature.
If your camera allows you to bracket three shots with 2 stops in between, you’re all set. Be sure your camera is on a tripod, set your frame-rate on ‘continuous’ and use a remote or cable release. But what if your camera can’t bracket in 2-stop increments? I get this question a lot from Nikon shooters, and there is an easy answer.
For some reason the higher end Nikon DSLR cameras can only bracket up to 1-stop increments. I use a Nikon D700 and a D300s. I can bracket three, five, seven or nine shots, but I can only do so 1-stop at a time. The D200, D300 and even the D3 series have the same bracketing options. Here’s how I work with these options for shooting HDR.
I bracket five shots with 1 stop between them. I end up with -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2 EV. When I import my photos and go to process my HDR image I use only the -2, 0 and +2 images in the series. I normally end up trashing the -1 and +1 shots, but sometimes I use one of these images to make the final HDR.
It would be great if Nikon would let us bracket 2 stops at a time. Nikon D90 and even D5000 users can bracket 2 stops, so it’s probably as simple as a firmware update. Until then I’ll keep my fingers crossed and use this simple workaround.
The image in this post shot with a Nikon D700 and 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens. The three exposures were combined and tone-mapped with Photomatix Pro. Finishing touches were applied in Lightroom2. Enter the discount code “RobKnight15” for 15% off when you order Photomatix Pro at www.hdrsoft.com.