Perfect Exposures Though Bracketing

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Even back in the film days, the number one question I was asked by workshop attendees was, “how can I make the prefect exposure?”

Some photographers feel that prefect exposure is only possible when shooting in Manual exposure mode and are surprised to learn that it’s the mode that I use least—except in the studio. That’s because digital camera sensors respond to light like a hybrid of the way that slide and color negative film respond. Out here in the digital world, there’s little latitude for overexposure but more for underexposure, in fact almost as much as color negative film.

To get the best possible photograph—the ultimate images—the secret—if there is any, is to properly expose the image. But what’s proper? Here’s the good news: You get to make that decision based on how you want the image to look.


Sometime the best solution for obtaining the best exposure is to shoot a series of shots varying exposures from what would be considered underexposure to overexposure. It’s an old technique leftover from film days called “bracketing” and many digital cameras have an automatic bracket option, so it’s easy, even automatic, to do with your mirrorless camera.

Auto-Bracket-640x426Because the LCD preview screen on most digital cameras appear to exaggerate an image’s contrast it’s possible for you to get what you think is a well-exposed image but what is sometimes slightly underexposed. Only the image’s histogram reveals the truth. For more information on using histograms, please my postDon’t Get Hysterical Over Histogramsover at our sister blog Saving the World, One Pixel at a Time.

Pianists practice scales; photographers need to practice exposure. Practice your bracketing and gradually you will learn how to evaluate the image on your LCD screen and make adjustments on the fly—without even looking at the histogram. ALcover



Joe is the co-author (with Barry Staver) of the now out-of-print “Better Available Light Digital Photography,” which is available from your friendly neighborhood camera store at affordable (check the “used from” prices)