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How To: Auto Bracket 9 Exposures on a 3 AEB System

I’ve been asked this question quite a bit. “How can you bracket 9 exposures on your Nikon D5000 when I can only bracket 3 using AEB”? Well there are two solutions, one is the amazing Promote Control, but I don’t have an extra $350 to invest in this must have piece, so I have an alternate solution.

It is recommended to never touch your camera during your brackets, as to not induce camera shake. This is true, but with my solution you will be touching the camera slightly to make adjustments so I recommend this.

1. A Sturdy tripod (not those cheap flimsy ones) I’ve been happy with my budget 7300 series tripod from Calumet Photo, because its made very well without the high price tag.

2. Make sure you tighten up all of the adjustments on your tripod after composing, so that your camera stays in place

3. I always use my camera bag as an anchor to weigh down my tripod.

4. I always use my wireless shutter release remote

5. Under the camera settings menu, set your EV increments to 1/2 instead of 1/3 (this will reduce the amount of wheel clicks you need to make to change the exposure.)

6. Set you camera to delayed exposure, this will allow the shutter to open before the shot is fired (reduces camera shake)

*Now here is how I go about getting 9 exposures out of a 3 Auto Exposure Bracketing System:*

What I do is set Auto Bracketing to 1EV, then I will meter the scene. Usually, I will then start my first 3 brackets 3 stops underexposed. That will give me -3,-4,-2. Then I will manually set exposure to zero, and auto bracket for 0,-1,+1. From there I will manually set the exposure 3 stops over exposed grabbing +3,+2,+4.

Unfortunately, this won’t work if you attempt less than 9. It seems 9 brackets provides me will all the dynamic range information I need, to take back to the digital darkroom. I have had plenty of images that only required 5 or 7 brackets so I will just discard the information I don’t need. Just make sure you don’t need some of those darkest brackets later, for maybe layer masking windows.

If you have any questions for me don’t hesitate to ask.:)

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October 21, 2010 - 7:38 pm

Ken Holtermann - Thanks for that information Scott…………

I sure would like you to show me that next time were in the Bahamas

October 29, 2010 - 1:03 pm

Gregg Obst - I bought the Promote Control about a month ago. Outside of my Sigma 10-20mm it is the best investment I’ve ever made towards bettering my HDR photography. It’s proven to be a much better calculator of exposure and optimal shutter speed adjustments than the auto bracketing in my D300. The results have been better source brackets for realistic HDR. I haven’t tried it for time lapse or long exposures for star trails yet but if it proves to be as useful for those as it has been in capturing things in HDR mode, I will be very happy.

The only thing I don’t like about it is the camera end of the USB cable extends out a little too far to allow me to switch the camera body into vertical orientation when using the landscaping “L” bracket. If they made it just anther 2 millimeters shorter, it would be able to slide nicely into the Arca-Swiss plate the way the “L” bracket normally does.

October 30, 2010 - 6:55 pm

Scott Frederick - I will have it one day, but for now I have my free method! :)

March 8, 2011 - 2:12 pm

Rossana Ferreira - Thanks for the tip Scott! Pretty cool way of doing it

March 10, 2011 - 11:53 pm

Scott Frederick - Hey Rossana, yes the tip works like a charm! Glad you found it useful!

April 5, 2012 - 11:16 pm

Colin Burt - Hey Scott – greetings from Australia. Following up your good report on the Calumet 3700 Tripod and head I went to Amazon with the idea to invest in one. Surprise – one glowing review and two which had the legs “falling off” . and “jamming ” . Rather dampened my ardour. Do you have any comments , now that you have been using it for a year or two? Or anyone else reading this who has bought one recently . Bit far from Calumet here for me to be sending back a tripod if it is not up to scratch! Maybe they have out sourced manufacture to China.

April 8, 2012 - 6:46 am

Scott Frederick - I answered Colin’s question via email but wanted to leave a note here. The Calumet 7300 series tripod is an ok cheap tripod. It does the job but will not last long under extreme conditions. I’ve been through 3 in 2 years. I’ve recently invested in a $600 CT213 Carbon Fiber Tripod from Induro and the BH-2 Ballhead.

June 30, 2012 - 4:58 pm

Arlen Fletcher - I came up with the same approach for 9 exposures, but I programmed the -4,-3, & -2 EV AEB sequence into my “custom 1″ setting, -1,0,+1 into “custom 2″, and +2, +3, & +4 into “custom 3″. That way I only have a single knob click between each AEB sequence. Works ok, but get odd color shifts between sequences that no one has been able to explain (even with white balance set to manual). I’m shooting a Canon 5D mk II.

June 30, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Arlen Fletcher - Oops! I lied! I’m only getting 5 exposures, -2, -1, 0, and 0, 1, 2 EV. I should’ve checked my camera before the previous post. Sorry about that. Obviously you get two 0 EV shots with this approach – which is what made the color shift problem obvious. Great info in the Topaz newsletter – thanks for sharing!

June 30, 2012 - 7:48 pm

Thomas S Garcia - I am new to digital cameras and using a printer. I am from the old school of photography. I have made prints the old fashioned method thru the darkroom. That you have made using the digital camera. It’s tricky trying to use your method. I have used 4+ and -4. Using 1/3 stops is not enough. You suggest using 1/2 EV.
I’ll try your method of bracketing. I shoot with Olympus E-3 so, your method could be done. I find the Olympus fits me more than other digital slrs. Thanks

June 30, 2012 - 9:29 pm

Scott Frederick - Hi Arlen, Thanks so much! I’m glad you were able to figure it out. The nice thing about the D7000 is it allows me to set up an option button that allows each click of the shutter wheel is one(1) full stop! Kinda nice! :)

Thomas, I am getting the itch to shoot more with my dad’s old Olympus OM-1n with the 50mm on it! I suggested setting your ev steps in the option menu to 1/2 increments instead of 1/3. This is different than what I suggest as ev spacing between each bracket. Setting ev step in the options menu will allow each shutter speed wheel click to be a 1/2 stop rather than 1/3. This is 2 clicks instead of 3, less is better. The spacing between the brackets in the Auto Exposure Bracketing feature should be 1 EV at 3AEB if that’s all your camera allows! Thank you!

June 30, 2012 - 9:36 pm

Steve Campbell - Good information for those who love hdr.

June 30, 2012 - 10:34 pm

Henry Godnitz - Hi, how do you meter the scene (i.e. which metering mode do you use)? I normally use centre weight average for pretty much everything; but I read that for HDR it’s better to use spot.

So, to see if I follow you: in your metering scale you have something like this:

| + + | + + | (this would be EV0, right?)

So, where would the arrow be if I wanted to obtain the -3,-2,-4?

Something like the one below?

| + + | + + |

Thanks in advance.

June 30, 2012 - 10:36 pm

Henry Godnitz - Er, sorry, in my post above, the ^ in the first diagram should be under the middle |.

July 11, 2012 - 12:21 am

Fernando Monreal - Why you don´t just meter the scene at the maximum white of the scene (compensate -2 stop) and then do 9 exposures -1, -2, -3. -4.. ect..-9 (has you said I think less is enough for the most of the scene 5 exposures doing my way is what I suggest) by hand without AEB mode?, I don´t see the benefit of AEB just drive you crazy for nothing, the rest is correct delay mode, remote shutter, sturdy tripod, and the bag :) I forget this work in Manual mode, I never use auto exposure in my works check out my web page in Facebook TotalPhoto, some interesting works.

May 26, 2013 - 11:44 am

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