The poll I did over a year ago showed that over half (54%) of real estate shooters that read this blog shoot brackets rather than shoot only with small flashes. While some very competent photographers will argue that 3 brackets is all you ever need, most bracket shooters I talk to and comment here on posts insist on shooting more than the 3 brackets that typical DSLR AEB features shoot. So a fundamental question for bracket shooters is, "how are you going to capture 5, 7 or 9 brackets?"
Back in March of this year I was overly optimistic that Smart Phone Apps and cables like Trigger Happy and Trigger Trap would offer an alternative to the Promote Controller. However, what I didn't realize is that these Smart Phone controllers operate with the DSLR in Bulb mode which means shutter speeds below 1 sec can't be used. This limits their usability for shooting brackets.
So what options do bracket shooters have to shoot more than 3 brackets?
- AEB + Exposure Compensation: Kerry Bern pointed this technique out in a comment. Kerry said: "Canon users can get 9 exposure bracketing by using Exposure Compensation in junction with AEB. Set your camera to AEB & the EC will now go from -4 to +4. I start out at -4. For that sequence I get -4, -2 & 0. Then adjust my EC’s left indicator to -3, then -2, then -1 and finally at 0. Of course you will get duplicate exposures at -2, -1, 0, +1 & +2. I simply delete the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th exposures. I am left with 9 exposures from -4 to +4."
- What I call the Michael Freeman (which he describes in his book) manual method, which is:
- Guess the shortest exposure needed to preserve highlights and shoot.
- Check the highlight clipping warning and histogram. Correct exposure is the longest at which there is no highlight clipping.
- Once the shortest exposure has been captured, set the shutter speed 2 stops slower and shoot the second frame.
- Continue changing the shutter speed by 1 stop (or what ever bracket spread you want) until the darkest shadows are mid-tones. Check this on the histogram, the left edge of which should be in the middle of the graph.
- Magic Lantern Open Source microcode for many Canon DSLRs: You basically change the microcode in your 5DMkII or other supported Canon DSLR (this is not a Nikon option) with the Magic Lantern microcode and then you can shoot up to 9 bracketed exposures
- Promote Controller: This device is a $329 external controller that can be used for a whole range of cameras. The Promote then will shoot a huge number of brackets.
There are downsides to each of these approaches. #1 & #2 above require a lot of camera touching of the camera during the shooting. #3 is attractive but only works for some cameras and some may be apprehensive about replacing the microcode in their DSLR with non-manufacturer supported code. #4 is costly and adds extra cables and an external device. There is no perfect solution. You have to decide which works best for you.
Another obvious approach is to choose a DSLR based on how well it shoots brackets if bracket shooting is going to be your main technique. Here is a summary of many DSLRs