Bracketing: Because You Can

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So I haven’t been hanging with the kahuna for very long and I’m still learning things as I go.  As long as it doesn’t involve reading a manual.  Because I don’t do that.  But I’ve began to realize that I’m a creature of habit.  I use my 50mm lens 80% of the time and I leave my camera on the Av mode (that’s the aperture preferred mode for the kids in the back).

Since most of the things I photograph are prone to move,  I pass on the manual setting and just alter that aperture to get the depth of field I want.  I CAN shoot manually.  I just choose not to.  Because it’s annoying and I squint and like I already said, things move and then the opportunity is missed.  But I took some time yesterday to flex my manual muscles.  And bracketed.

What is bracketing?  It’s taking the same photo with different settings to see which exposure you prefer.  There’s always going to be a “correct” exposure but that doesn’t mean that it’s the absolute-be-all-and-know-all setting.  Afterall, you are an artist that is painting in pixels.  [Geez.  I am lame.]

For instance, when you’re photographing carnival rides, the “correct” exposure will likely freeze the ride.  But you as the photographer can manipulate your exposure so that ride shows movement and the colors bleed into each other and look mega-fly.

Kentucky State Fair: Midway

Well, I think it looks mega-fly.  Not that my opinion matters much.

Bracketing.  Experimenting with exposure.  Learning what your eye likes most.  Shooting manually.

I set up this little still life (I know, it’s horrible and completely uncreative but go with me here) and set my ISO at 100 and my aperture to f/8.0 and bracketed.  The photo in the center is the “correct” exposure at 1/8 sec.  The photo on the left is over exposed at 1/6 sec and the photo on the right is under exposed at 1/13 sec.  You see the difference?


Looking at this now, I realize I should have gone a little further.  With the changing exposures.  But I didn’t.  If you want to see how different it looks, shoot it yourself.  All the cool kids are doing it.

After this little bracketing adventure, I decided to use the same lame still life and bracket depth of field as I increased the f-stop.  I slapped that 50mm on the kahuna and stacked some books on a chair as a makeshift tripod – because my tripod is my car… and there was a lot of snow on the ground… and the doggins don’t have thumbs to go fetch stuff like that.

Starting at f/1.8, I found the “correct” exposure with the shutter speed (which was 1/320 sec at 100 ISO) and fired.  Then I stopped up a couple times, set the “correct” exposure and repeated.  I rinse and repeated and rinse and repeated until I was at f/20 with an exposure of 1/2 sec.  As you work your way down the photos, you see that wine bottle in the back begins to come more in focus.

DOF bracketing

Smaller the f-stop = larger the aperture = shorter depth of field


Aperture: f/1.8
Exposure: 1/320 sec
Focal length: 50mm
ISO speed: 100

Larger the f-stop = smaller the aperture = longer depth of field


Aperture: f/20
Exposure: 1/2 sec
Focal length: 50mm
ISO speed: 100

By bracketing, you begin to learn more about your camera.  Although I think shooting manually is a pain in the ass, it’s nice to reach back into the files hidden deep in my brain and exercise those manual muscles.  And besides, practice makes perfect.  Maybe if I shot manually a little more often I wouldn’t be using that Av mode.

Actually, I know that’s true.  But I’m lazy.  Boo.

To learn more about Brooke and see her recent work, visit her new site at Follow Brooke on Facebook or Twitter.

February 16, 2010 - 4:49 pm

katie o. - I really am going to have to print this out and carry it with me always. This is where I get lost. It’s like 10th grade Geometry all over again. Painful and not able to sink in. Thank you for doing such a great tutorial though. This was perfect and I cannot wait to implement this into my daily, okay, hourly photo fun.

February 16, 2010 - 6:43 pm

Doo Doo - Boo Boo

I enjoyed the lesson.

I think your doing a outstanding with your blog.

Doo Doo

February 16, 2010 - 6:49 pm

shutterboo - Thanks DAd. See – I pay attention… in my own way.

February 17, 2010 - 8:15 am

Wendi - Brooke, so glad to know I’m not the only one who does this…takes multiple images while fiddling with f stop. Lurv the carnival photos.

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