In previous posts I've mentioned that a friend of mine and I often go out on photo expeditions together. The other day I asked him if he ever bracketed his exposures. He told me that he almost always takes multiple exposures at different settings, but he didn't think his camera had auto bracketing. I informed him that since he uses a nice DSLR camera I was certain it had it because even my wife's fairly basic little point and shoot has it. For most cameras Auto Bracketing consists of taking one exposure at what the camera thinks is the correct settings, one under-exposed by whatever you set it to, and one over exposed by that same amount.
Back in the "old days" of film photography the best photographers would usually make several exposures of anything important. Of course each exposure would be slightly different. Sometimes they were hundreds if not thousands of miles from home and they would not get a second chance at this shot. Today of course, we can usually see the photo immediately on our LCD screen, but if you are one of those that has prints made or puts the photo up on your TV or computer monitor you've probably noticed that a lot of times they look different in print or on the larger screens than they did on the small, low resolution LCD. Because of this most digital cameras these days have auto bracketing. When you turn Auto Bracketing on the camera will automatically adjust the exposures according to the options that you choose and guess what - unlike the old days where each exposure cost you some $$ today's are FREE.
I'm not suggesting that every single photo should be shot that way, but you should be aware of it for when you get in situations where you're just not sure how to get the best exposure. Christmas lights are a prime example of that. For these photos with the Christmas lights in the trees and the flood lights on the building and with the added light reflected off the new snow, I just wasn't sure what I was going to get, so I made three exposures one full f stop apart. Which do you like best? As you're evaluating don't forget the one at the top of the article. The photo at the top is the one the camera thought was one full stop over-exposed. The one below was "properly exposed" and the bottom one is one full stop underexposed. And, OBTW, you might like different ones depending on whether you're printing, or displaying it on your blog.
For a very thorough but clear explanation of "f stops" and exposure check here.
If you're interested in improving your photography and this bracketing stuff is new to you, or you don't know if or how your camera does it, I recommend you get out your instruction manual and start reading. After you've checked it out in your manual grab your camera and get out there and test it. Have fun, and let me know how you did. I look forward to hearing from you.