Z bracketing/HDR exposure strategy

Started Dec 9, 2018 | Discussions thread
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Horshack Veteran Member • Posts: 8,744
Z bracketing/HDR exposure strategy
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I thought it would be useful for everyone to share their bracketing/HDR strategy for the Z cameras. Since the Z operates similarly to the D8xx series the bracketing strategies are likely similar if not identical. However bracketing is even more important on the Z due to the potential for banding in shadows.

Exposure

First, I use Highlight-Weighted metering (HWM), which is essentially spot metering but across the entire frame and with some additional intelligence done by the camera to account for individual color channel clipping. HWM puts the brightest highlights at the center of the histogram but I want them at the right of the histogram (ETTR) so I keep a +2EV exposure compensation dialed into the camera. You could probably go a little more aggressive such as +2.3EV or even 2.66EV but initially I'm using +2EV.

Bracketing Type

I use the +3F bracketing settings with 2EV spacing, which shoots 3 shots, the first at the original (base) exposure, the second at +2EV and the third at +4EV. Note I use +3F rather than 3F because my exposure technique gives me the darkest exposure I want that still retains highlights (ETTR), thus I have no need for an "Underexposure" shot the 3F mode (MTR/under/over) would produce. I also set my bracketing order (e7) to under/MTR/over, so that the three shot sequence is base, base+2EV, and base+4EV.

Shutter triggering

I typically trigger with the shutter in self-timer mode, configured for 2-second or 5-second. This allows all exposures to be taken with a single shutter press. For the Z I use the electronic shutter exclusively for minimum vibration, since I'm usually bracketing landscape or natural-light shots that don't yield side effects from the electronic shutter.

Sample Output

Here's a 100% crop showing the darkest exposure of a 3-shot bracket with its shadows raised vs the resulting HDR merge of all three shots, using LR HDR's merge:

And here's what the three individual shots look like without any exposure adjustments:

Base Exposure

Base + 2EV Exposure

Base + 4EV Exposure

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