Just what is exposure bracketing? It’s a feature in many DSLR and mirrorless cameras that allows you to take a group of different exposures for the same image.
So why is that helpful? In a landscape situation, if the sky is really bright but your foreground is quite dark, it can be difficult to get the right balance in the exposure. Bracketing can help. You can essentially expose for the sky, middle ground and foreground separately and then merge them together in programs like Aurora HDR, Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.
How do you set it up on the Sony?
I suggest using the latest software/firmware update (version 3.10 for my a7R Mark III). You can leave your images as uncompressed RAW files or compressed — it doesn’t really matter for this function. And for now, leave your drive mode alone. You can use the silent shutter if you prefer, also can be used without this function.
So if you haven’t got the latest firmware update, check it out, it is totally worth doing! If you are using Silent Shooting, you may wish to do is set up a quick action key for the Silent Shooting on and off. I used C3. Go to Custom Key Settings (Camera 2 folder), page 8 and then scroll down to Custom Button 3 and scroll to find Silent Shooting.
Now we can begin to set up brackets.
Finally, let’s bracket …
So in the menu under Camera 1 folder, page 3, select Bracket Settings. You can turn the self-timer on or off and change the duration. I usually try 2 seconds. You can also change the bracketing sequence — I prefer – > 0 > +.
Press C3 to turn your Silent Shooting on and you are ready to go (if you are using Silent Shooting).
Now you can go to the drive mode (press the Fn button) and select continuous or single. Continuous takes three frames automatically, while single means you need to take them one after the other (I find continuous is easier for me). You can use the arrows (in the side menu) to choose between 0.3, 1, 2 or 3 stops over 3, 5 or 9 images.
Generally, unless the dynamic range is really bad, 1-2 stops over 3 images are more than enough for my needs. Perhaps if you are shooting outdoors a lot, you might need more.
So now what?
You just press the shutter button, ONCE, let the camera do all the heavy lifting. Now the fun can really start. Grab your images and create your HDR. Use your software of choice — Aurora HDR, Lightroom Classic (with HDR Merge) or Photoshop.
Aurora HDR edit
Lightroom Classic edit
I’d love to have shown you some beautiful sweeping panoramic vistas, however, due to a certain pandemic and our current second wave, I am in lockdown (again) and my backyard is about as far as I can go. Still, I am sure you get the overall point.
TIP: If you are using older software you may need to switch your images over to compressed RAW. Also if you have Picture Profiles selected this may also interfere. If this is an issue, also turn them off. Silent Shooting mode and Bracketing may not function in Auto mode.