Photography Tutorials

Sunset Photography - How to do Bracketing Photography

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Improve your sunset photography by bracketing exposure.

Sunset photography is a challenging genre within landscape photography. I have talked before about how our own eyes and brain work together to let us see a very large dynamic ranges of light. We see details in shadows and very bright highlights at the same time.

Despite cameras having ever increasing dynamic range they still do not compare to the eye/brain combination. The problem is particularly felt in sunset photography where there is high contrast between the sky, where we often shoot straight at the sun, and the ground which gets darker later in the day with long shadows.

We previously got round this using graduated filters. A more modern technique is bracketing photography. Here we take a number of shots at different exposures and combine them in the computer. This creates a RAW file that contains all the details from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. This is exactly the same as HDR photography but we are looking to reproduce a natural sunset photography shot that our eyes perceived, rather than that HDR look.

Bracketing Photography

To capture everything that my eyes see I use bracketing photography. To do this in the camera you first need to be in manual mode. You will need a tripod. Set your ISO to 100, aperture to the f8-f16 range and then balance exposure with the shutter speed so you get an image that captures some small detail in the shadows and does not totally over exposure the sky. Use your Histogram to help you expose for the mid tones.

Turn on bracketing. On a Canon camera it is via the Q menu. When doing sunset photography going two stops either side is often the most effective.

Set the camera to fire using the two second timer to avoid any camera shake. The camera needs to be perfectly still for each of the three shots otherwise Lightroom will not be able to combine the images.

Take your shot and the camera will take three exposures. Check each image to make sure you have one that is exposed for the highlights, one for the mid tones and one for shadows.

Combine your sunset photography in Lightroom using the Photo Merge/HDR command. This combines your images into one large RAW file that allows much greater adjustment than a single shot. Process you sunset photography image and aim for something very similar to what your eyes witnessed to avoid your image looking over processed.

Cheating?

Cheating? For me no. I look to create a final image that is as close to what my eyes perceived as possible. the means whether it is with a physical graduated filter, bracketing or a futuristic camera is irrelevant.

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HDR Photography Tutorial - Using Adobe Lightroom

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See more of the world with HDR photography.

In this video I show you how to do HDR photography using a simple technique in Adobe Lightroom. Get a FREE trial of Adobe Lightroom today - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/get/lightroom

HDR stands for high dynamic range.

When we see the world through our own eyes your brain and eyes work cleverly together to perceive many different shades. We can see detail in very bright sunny areas and also lots of detail in shadow areas.

The processor inside a camera is by no means as powerful as our brain so struggles to capture detail in both bright areas and those in shadow. Although cameras increase their dynamic range with every new model that comes out they still have some way to go.

Thankfully we have a way to get round this using HDR photography. All you need is your current gear and the power of Adobe Lightroom. It is a simple method of taking two or three shots with different exposures, to capture the shadows, mid tones, and highlight areas in separate images and then merging them in Lightroom.

When HDR images became popular many people were creating highly stylised pictures that made images look unrealistic and felt like someone had thrown up all over the picture. Thankfully you can use HDR to your advantage to create some beautiful images of scenes where there is high contrast and your camera just cannot cope.

Firstly you need to get out with your camera to somewhere great and capture a beautiful scene. Many cameras now have a HDR mode, like your iPhone, but if you want those high quality images you will want to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera.

The video explains how to do HDR photography:

  • Take an image focusing on the mid tones.
  • Apply those settings to manual mode
  • Use bracketing. This takes three shots consecutively at set exposure intervals.
  • Adjust the bracketing depending on the dynamic range of your scene
  • Take your shot. You need to keep the camera as still as possible. It is possible to handhold but better off using a tripod.
  • Merge in Adobe Lightroom.

HDR photography is fun and easy to do and this tutorial will get you started so you can shoot some beautiful images of your own.

Watch Episode one of the First Man Vlog - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/vlog/vlog-no-1

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