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Dive Photo Guide

Exposure Bracketing

Exposure Bracketing

Exposure bracketing is a technique used by photographers to help ensure they capture a correctly exposed imaged.    It is a simple technique that is especially important underwater, where lighting is inherently complex.

When you take an image, you adjust the settings on your camera and your strobes so that the right amount of light reaches the camera sensor and produces the correct exposure. When shooting wide-angle, you usually meter on the mid-range of blue water so that the water is properly exposed as a nice (subjective) shade of blue. However, light can be tricky underwater and what your camera’s light meter thinks is the correct exposure doesn’t always result in the image you envisioned or what you see in your viewfinder.  If you bracket this exposure with another one that is slightly underexposed and another that is slightly overexposed, you can help compensate for the possibility of an incorrect exposure.  Depending on your exposure mode, you can either step your aperture or shutter speed a stop down or up, or adjust your EV compensation.

Additionally you can bracket by adjusting strobe position and/or power settings. Particularly when shooting macro, most, if not all, of your image is lit by your strobes.  In this case, you may want to bracket the exposure by adjusting your strobe power rather than with your camera settings.
Bracketing is especially useful in tricky lighting situations and scenes with a high dynamic range, like if you are shooting into the sun, a situation that can easily deceive your camera’s light meter into underexposing most of the image in order to not over expose the areas of the image close to the sun.
If you are just getting started in underwater photography, bracketing can help you get the right shot.  Reading the LCD screen underwater can be difficult and takes some getting used to, so its not always safe to assume what looks properly exposed on the camera screen underwater, will look properly exposed on your computer screen topside. Always consider bracketing images to get the best results.
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