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Digital Life

Bracketing made easy with a compact camera

Published on Aug 15, 2014 6:47 AM

There is something professional photographers probably never tell you. Bracketing, that is. TREVOR TAN shows you how to utilise this technique to reduce the possibility of taking a “bad” photograph.

What is Bracketing?
Bracketing is a photography technique that take several frames of the same subject using different camera settings, such as exposure, ISO or white balance.
This is especially useful when you are shooting landscapes with plenty of contrast.
In fact, the term bracketing to most photographers almost exclusively means shooting different exposures of the same subject, for example, one photo "correct" or base exposure, one photo brighter and another photo darker.
Photographers used to manually switch settings, such as changing shutter speed of aperture, after each frame. But many digital compact cameras these days have built-in automatic bracketing function.

Photos shot using Casio Exilim EX-100 with Intelligent Bracketing Mode (Contrast and Saturation Bracketing). -- ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

How to use Bracketing
Despite the automatic bracketing function doing all the work for you, you still need to choose how many stops the bracketing to be.
So what do I mean by stops? In photography, we talk about exposure or brightness in terms of stops.
If you look at your exposure value (EV) settings on your camera, chances are you will find the option to increase or decrease the EV value by +1 or +2 or by -2 or -1. An EV+1 will mean one stop up (or brighter) from the base exposure and an EV-2 means two stops down (or darker) from the base exposure.
A stop up can mean a change in either shutter speed or aperture. For example, if you bracket a scene by one stop (EV+1 and EV-1), you use f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/125sec and ISO 100 as the base exposure, one stop up means a bigger aperture of f/5.6 and one stop down with a smaller aperture of f/11.
Alternatively, you can also increase the shutter speed by one stop to 1/60sec or down one stop by changing the shutter speed to 1/250sec. You usually can choose either shutter speed or aperture for your bracketing settings.

Photos shot using Casio Exilim EX-100 with Intelligent Bracketing Mode (Contrast and White Balance). -- ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Different types of Bracketing
With the advent of technology in cameras, camera makers are putting more bells and whistles in the bracketing function. You can now bracket white balance, ISO, focus and even depth of field.
Take the Casio Exilim EX-100 for example. It has what Casio called Intelligent Bracketing mode. This mode lets you shoot nine frames using two different parameters, such as white balance and contrast, in just one second. So you get eight frames with different combinations of white balance and contrast plus one normal shot. You can then choose the best shot.

Photos shot using Casio Exilim EX-100 with Intelligent Bracketing Mode (Shutter speed). -- ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

When to use Bracketing
Bracketing can be used anytime in any shots you take. It depends on how "kiasu" or greedy you are. With memory cards being so cheap these days, you can really try as much bracketing as you like.
And which setting should you use when you are bracketing your shots? It depends.
If you are choosing a street scene, using a slower shutter speed to convey pedestrians in motion might be better. If you want a wider depth of field when you are shooting a landscape, then decreasing the aperture is preferable.
Again, there is no definitive rule. You only truly learn when you make mistakes. You can just let your imagination run wild and experiment with the different bracketing settings your camera has. 

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