Easily Set Up Your Camera for Exposure Bracketing and HDR Stacking


HDR (high dynamic range) image processing can be very cool for some types of photos. Whether done manually or with a dedicated HDR program, it almost always requires shooting multiple RAW images at various exposures then combining them in software during post-processing. I’ll show you how I set my camera to get the photos – without using a tripod in most cases.

If you know me or read what I write, there’s no point in telling you how much I dislike using a tripod. Yes, sometimes they’re necessary. But I think that time is not very often, and I’ll always try to get out of using a tripod.

For HDR photo stacking, you need to shoot several images at varying exposure values (EV). I shoot seven photos at these exposure values: -3 EV, -2 EV, -1 EV, 0 EV, +1 EV, +2 EV, and +3EV. Then I combine them in software afterward to expand the dynamic range and get a nice HDR image.

The next part depends on your camera. My Canon 80D allows me to bracket seven exposures and here are my settings:

Canon EOS 80D:

  • Menu C.Fn.1-5, 3: 7 shots.
  • Menu C.Fn.1-4, 1: – 0 + sequence.
  • Menu C.Fn. 1-6, 2: Safety shift, ISO speed.
  • Continuous shooting mode: on, high speed.
  • Bracketing: on, 1 EV intervals.

These settings in my EOS 80D camera set me up to take seven shots starting from most underexposed (-3 EV) to most overexposed (+3 EV), changing the ISO if needed, just by depressing the shutter button and holding it. When seven exposures are taken, the camera stops shooting the sequence.

I have a fast memory card installed in my camera, and I’ve made other settings that allow for high-speed shooting like ISO noise compensation, and others. The point is to set up to take a series of high speed bracketed exposures. This allows you not to use a tripod during daylight hours while shooting an HDR sequence. If it were night, you would have to use a tripod anyway, so this is not shocking, and there is no getting around this.

Setting up your camera to take quick bracketed shots is one of the best secrets to getting a good HDR sequence. It is easy and right there in your camera. You just have to use the correct settings and then shoot away.