How To Bracket With Animal Photography

Bracketing with animal photography isn’t any different than bracketing with any other subject but it does have some special advantages with animals.

Because, animals move. So to have the ability to take three frames in quick succession at three different exposure settings is a real plus. You don’t have to stop and fumble around with three different settings to get the best exposure of Fluffy doing a leap off the high diving board.  You just set your auto exposure bracketing amount (AEB) and shoot away.

So how do you set AEB with your camera? Hey…we know the answer to that question! We look it up in our manual. Sure, I can tell you how to do it with my camera, but in case you haven’t noticed, there are a gazillion cameras on the market.  So the manual for your camera is the ticket. Put it in your camera bag and leave it there.

That said, here is the basic procedure.

  1. Put your Mode Dial on a shooting mode that supports auto exposure bracketing.
  2. Open your menu and go to the section that deals with bracketing exposures.
  3. Specify the amount by which each shot will be overexposed or underexposed. Once you decide, the camera  will capture three different images in this sequence:  standard exposure, under exposure, and over exposure. (But check your own manual for the sequence.)
  4. Take the picture. The idea being that once you download the images to your computer you can choose the one you like best.

High end cameras will enable you to change the AEB by at least -3 to +3 EV (exposure value), in 1/3 step increments.  Once you take three exposures, check your LCD screen to get a rough ball park idea of what amount to try next. This is hard to do outside where there is usually too much glare on the screen, but find a shady spot and take a look. I don’t go by my LCD for exposure, but it will show me if I’m totally off, so it is useful for AEB.

Here are three images that illustrate what I mean by being totally off!

Underexposed by 2.3 stops

Overexposed by 2.3 stops

No exposure correction, meaning this is the exposure I chose to set as the best guess for a correct exposure for this image in this light with this subject

Ok. We can see that the first two exposures are way off, and they are so off that I was able to evaluate them on my LCD screen.

So I adjusted the AEB amount and tried again, this time with a much tighter range.

AEB -1

Plus +1

Just right! (Almost)

Now that I have an image that I think is “just right,” I can shoot away with AEB knowing I’m on target for a good exposure, and I know that once I load the images on my computer I’ll be close enough to a perfect exposure to make final adjustments with my computer software.

I can do a tighter crop, sharpen it a bit and add a titch more lighting to the shadow areas so the shadow on the girl’s face is not so dark.  Nice!

But wait. Let’s see what happens if I do some processing to the + 1 image.

I like this image better, and the horse is in a slightly different position. Plus the girl’s face has a bit more detail in the shadow area. Plus the horse’s tongue isn’t hanging out. But on the negative side, the background isn’t as good. Still, I think  I’ll chose this exposure.

Note that in the example of + 2.3 or – 2.3 in the first set of images, I would not have been able to chose the lighter image for post processing. (Well I could try to work with it, but by the time I got it to something useable, I’d have thrown out so many pixels that any chance of a good enlargement would be history.) Because, there was  just too much difference between the correct exposure and the amount of AEB I choose. This is why you need to figure out what you think is the best amount to set, and then check it on the LCD screen and make adjustments from there.

Try this feature with your camera and see what kind of results you get.

Good shooting.


Tagged ,