Bracketing In The Digital Age

photo of exposure bracketing - by SmialSmial
Bracketing still has value, even in the digital age -

Bracketing started back in the days of film photography because film was cheaper than trying to find new clients. The only way to make sure you got a tricky shot was to take five or six shots, constantly bumping either the shutter speed or aperture, sometimes both, to make sure you had at least one good shot. After that you sent the film to the lab and crossed your fingers.

Bracketing in the digital age takes on a different context and technique. When working with RAW images there’s no incentive to bracket white balance. White balance is a notation in the headers of a RAW file and you can change it at your leisure, along with sharpness, contrast, and other color settings determined by the compression algorithm.

If you’re not working with RAW or your camera doesn’t support it, then think about bracketing white balance. You can get some interesting effects deliberately using the wrong white balance for the scene.

I still bracket on exposure, partly out of habit, partly because in these days of digital photo manipulation, you might like the sky better at one exposure and the subject at another. You don’t always have to go full HDR, but that’s another good reason to bracket.

Along with that, exposure by itself can do a lot to change the mood of a shot. The optimum exposure is not always the best for the scene and, in my experience, the closer to perfect coming out the camera, the better the photo will look in the end.

Another time I still use bracketing is when I’m shooting with a flash. I don’t completely trust the LCD screen, even with the histogram. It’s really pretty easy to go a half-stop on either side when shooting with a flash and the difference can be hard to see in the LCD. But that half-stop can make quite a lot of difference in post.

While you may not need to bracket as much in the digital age, there are still good reasons to do so. Besides, it’s not like you’re spending a lot extra on film. Some of you have cameras that have automatic bracketing. Take advantage of it. If nothing else it will help you determine what exposures look best to you.

And, for us old dogs, maybe old habits are just hard to break.