Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

Have you ever been photographing a subject with tricky lighting or lots of variation between bright and darker areas but were not sure what exposure setting to go with?

One way to work in such situations is to manually play around with your exposure control and take a series of shots – the problem with this is that it takes time and if you are photographing a changing environment (for example a sunset which changes from moment to moment) you can lose ‘the moment’ while you get things right.

Most DSLRs (and some more advanced compact cameras) come with a feature called ‘Automatic Exposure Bracketing‘ (AEB) which can be useful to learn how to use in such situations.

By selecting it you can quickly take three shots (usually three) at different exposures without having to manually change any settings between frames. You can see an example of this below


When you select Automatic Exposure Bracketing the camera will choose one exposure (based upon what its metering thinks is right) and then it will take one other shot on either side of this best guess (one over exposed (as in the left shot above) and one underexposed (as in the right shot above)).

This way you end up with the three images in a series with exactly the same composition but at different exposures for you to select the best of later on.

If you have the camera in burst mode (continuous shooting) the three shots will be taken if you hold down the shutter for a burst of three shots. If you’re in single shot mode the shots will take as you depress the shutter three times.

Each digital camera has a different way of selecting AEB, some like Nikon’s D70 have an accessible button on the back (marked BKT) while others (like Canon) have an AEB setting in their menus.

Check out your manual to see how AEB works on your digital camera. Most will allow you to change the variation between shots by different ‘stops’. For example you might want a big variation between your three shots and would select a ‘2 stop’ gap or you might only want a slight variation and choose a ‘half stop’ gap. I generally start with a ‘1 stop’ variation and work from there.

PS: to give you a little more control in Automatic Exposure Bracketing mode you can use it ether in Aperture Priority Mode or Shutter Priority Mode. Using AEB in Aperture Priority mode will all you to choose the aperture you want for the shot and telling the camera to make the variations in shots by varying shutter speed. Alternatively using AEB in shutter priority mode will keep the shutter speed at the speed you select and tell the camera to vary the exposure by changing the aperture in your shots.

Images by lensflairdk

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Ravi Kashyap September 1, 2013 11:02 am

    If you shoot in RAW, do you real need to AEB, can you adjust the exposure up and down 1 stop within RAW and save the results each time to have the same 3 shots that you would get from AEB or am I missing something?

  • Miller August 5, 2013 03:47 am

    I attended a nightscape workshop and this is what the leader recommended. Great tip.

  • Richard Crowe November 9, 2012 03:09 am

    Something that is seldom mentioned is using AEB for night shots; especially of city scapes, etc.. I combine one-stop AEB with a minus one-stop exposure compensation and mirror lock up. This gives me three shots in burst mode: one shot at the exposure reading, one shot at 1-stop below the meter reading and one stop at -2 stops below the meter reading. This will almost always provide at least one shot at a great exposure.

    NOTE: I have one of my 7D User Selected Modes set up for this type of shooting. The three User Selected Modes are a great advantage but, seldom mentioned in camera reviews.

    BTW: If you want to shoot for HDRI it is often better to use AEB in a 2 stop group. I combine this with a -1 stop exposure compensation when shooting images with considerable bright areas and with no compensation when shooting images that are mostly dark. Using a tripod is the best way to achieve an HDRI composite but, using the burst mode; I can get decent HDRI composites hand held.

  • Carol November 5, 2012 09:53 pm

    I really love this series of posts on exposure - thank you SO much. You explain things really clearly and the bite size of each post is perfect whilst reading them all in sequence is a fantastic way to reinforce knowledge and learning! Brilliant!

  • Charlie Tupman September 28, 2012 01:35 am

    Great bracketing advice, I'm new to HDR but learning quickly, I use a Canon 5d mk ii with +-2 bracketing but I really want to get 5 or 6 different exposure points do you know of any way I can do this easily without changing the exposure manually every time?

    You can check out some of my shots in the vitual tours on our website:>

  • dr.kshitij May 24, 2012 07:10 pm

    i have been using point and shoot and now i am ready to upgrade.
    i have a number of questions.
    a. shud i go for dslr or try mirrorless. my photography expert friend said ......dslr
    b. i was disappointed to read that video shooting is not that good in dslr coz video continuous auto focus is a problem....and audio might catch the lens focusing noise.
    c. now amongst dslr, i have to decide between d3200 and d5100. both cost same. difference is d3200 is 20% lighter in weight, has expeed 3, 24 mpixels, wifi, guide mode and so on, while d5100 is time tested, it has auto bracketing, screen tilts and adjusts and so on. which one to go for.
    what am i looking for?
    well....i was looking for a device to shoot both video and pics.....but after reading that videos wont be that great.....nw i am looking for nice pics.....i have a research mind....and i tend to like the idea of bracketing. this gives me more chances of getting the perfect shot coz i wud be getting 3 shots. now right here i wish to it dire necessity to have a tripod to shoot those 3 pics....i am told ....all 3 shud be taken without shaking camera....i wont use tripod......but i can try to keep hand stable. like i said...i did like the idea of having one over and under exposed shot. now the software that comes with the nikon....will it be enough to do the editing for final pic on laptop or will i have to purchase another software.
    in real bracketing done frequently...or no.
    what i like in d3200 is light weight, guide mode and so on.....but i dont know.....if d5100 is technologically more advanced.
    last thought.....d3200 is recently launched while d5100 is old and therefore d5200 is expected. but i guess it will be significantly more than d5200......may be it will be too costly for me. so lets stick to 700usd mark and decide between d3200 and d5100.
    kindly guide.

  • ace ventura March 29, 2012 02:06 pm

    @ arun. the point of AEB isnt to figure out what the right shot is, its to get it. u can analyze the lighting all u want, but if you expose in favor of highlights, your shadows r going to hide detail and visa versa. AEB is to allow detail in both highs and lows to be seen. with a normal exposure, u cant have both unless u can beat the laws of physics somehow. i also never hear this but fyi aeb also greatly reduces noise so its great for higher iso shots. my sony has aeb which they call HDR, and it gets between 1 and 2 stops less noise than a normal frame, and thats with only 3 frames bracketed. some cameras have up to 9 frames. AEB is the best thing to happen to digital in a long time even though it is really only meant for static subjects. antishake helps a lot with ghosting/double images. my a33 is horrible in high iso, and i can HDR a night photo into great shape. if u like AEB keep talking about it, the more we show our interest, the more it will show up in our cameras!

  • Skippy January 24, 2012 01:30 pm

    @Sourav - there is firmware out there called Magic Lantern that will allow you to take more bracketed shots. You can check it out here,

    Now if ML does not interest you then you can do what I used to do when I did not run ML. Take two sets of exposures with the fist set being all in the minus group then take your second set of three starting at even and working your way up the + side. I have done this plenty of times when there was a great need for a wide dynamic range. Just make sure to use a tripod so that you don't move the camera and all is good.

  • Sourav Chakraborty January 23, 2012 08:29 pm

    How can I use the Canon T2i/550D to take more than 3 (e.g. 5 or 7) Bracketed shots? AEB takes only 3 automatically.

  • house painter November 14, 2011 05:44 am

    I just bought my first SLR Nikon d5100. Thank you for your post. Never had auto bracketing before. I will read your blog more often. Thanks.
    Is it better to use RAW or fine JPEG?

    Chicago painter

  • Jeremy November 11, 2011 08:18 am

    When setting the AEB on a Canon Rebel XTi, can you set the camera to take more than 3 shots? Some of you say that you can not do HDR with 3 shots while others say this is the way to go. Any insight?

  • Larry Bradshaw August 28, 2011 06:04 am

    If you shoot in RAW, do you real need to AEB, can you adjust the exposure up and down 1 stop within RAW and save the results each time to have the same 3 shots that you would get from AEB or am I missing something?

  • Chris August 27, 2011 08:16 am

    What cameras support AEB in manual mode?

    I read on some blogs some Nikons and Canon 5D support this. They give option of changing aperture or shutterspeed for the manual settings.

    I have T2i and it does not seem to support AEB on manual.

  • Nick August 21, 2011 03:01 am

    Hi there. Great article. I am actually just learning today about Auto Exposure Bracketing and then using the pictures for HDR.
    I own a Sony DSLR-A290 and have set my priority on aperture priority. I have selected my AEB and am ready to shoot. As I take my 3 pictures, I notice that they are all of the same exposure, as if nothing had happened. Please can someone tell me what I am doing wrong??
    I have checked my camera's manual and don't seem to find anything on AEB.


  • Mishaela August 11, 2011 07:49 am

    How do you combine all three images using a photo editing program-or which program should you use-after you've taken them to get the best exposure in all areas? For example, I recently went to Jasper and used the AEB setting on my camera to take a picture of a mountain, one picture to get the right exposure in the sky, one for the mountain, and one for the dark trees in the foreground. Any suggestions?

  • Kartik July 1, 2011 02:51 am

    So the camera adjusts shutter speed for exposure compensation in Aperture mode, it adjusts shutter speed in the Shutter priority mode. I'm curious what the camera would compensate for in the Manual mode. Would it be ISO?

  • SilentBob June 10, 2011 02:06 pm

    Does anyone know how i can set up the Nikon D5000 to do a burst 3fps and still have the AEB w/ one push of a button?! Only idea i have is that set my camera on a tripod, delay 2 sec. w/ 3 shots.
    @ariana: nikon D5000 does have it.

  • ArianaMurphy February 3, 2011 03:32 am

    @Boris That free download at hrdtist is for Mac only. Anybody know of a good freebie for Windows?

  • ArianaMurphy February 3, 2011 03:26 am

    I shoot with a D60 too, and wish I could try the AEB. I've been looking at upgrading to a D5000 (mostly because I can't afford a D7000!). Anybody out there with a D5000? I'd love to know if it has AEB.

  • Indigowaters February 2, 2011 04:27 am

    God I love this forum. This is the solution to my problem. I have an event tomorrow and don't know anything about the lighting and have only done natural light outdoors mostly. Thanks for such a great article!

  • Stephen February 2, 2011 02:03 am

    I have the AEB option on my Canon but have never understood what it is for. Between the article and all the comments, I ma certainly going to give it a try and see what I come up with. Thanks for all the sharing.

  • Joe Marfice January 19, 2011 01:35 am

    Skippy: Does what it says on the label. I sometimes manually do my exposure bracketing, because it is simpler than hunting it down in the menus, but there is no way I can do it as fast as the AEB function does (3 shots as fast as the camera can take them). (Canon SX1000is)

  • Skippy January 18, 2011 08:58 am

    I am a huge fan of AEB and use it all the time. I am also a huge fan of shooting in RAW which has been mentioned and making that adjustment in Photoshop. Having said that, I stumbled across people saying that they shoot AEB in the burst. I have never done this but plan to check this out. I just want anyone that does this, (I shoot with a Canon T2i), to confirm that they are getting three pictures each time. One normal exposure. One under, and one over.

  • LELO December 30, 2010 11:09 pm

    Learning something new everyday! Did not even know the AEB function existed. I'm finding the comments just as helpful as the article itself. Good work everyone. Thank you.

  • Richard Crowe October 29, 2010 12:41 am

    Shooting AEB in the burst mode is a LOT quicker than shooting an image, chimping on the LCD, changing exposure and reshooting. Shooting the three bracketed shots in burst mode is almost instantaneous.

    However, I don't use AEB when I shoot sports or action since I want every frame to be exposed as well as possible.

    I do wish that the Canon xxD (10D-60D) cameras would have a selection of three, five and seven shot AEB bursts as the 1D cameras are said to have. That would really improve the ability to shoot for AEB imagery.

    One thing I must mention when using Canon cameras in the AEB mode. The default setting on the camera is for the AEB to be cancelled when the camera is turned off for any reason or when the lens is changed.

    I personally do not like the default setting and prefer to be the one to decide when I want to turn AEB on and off, not let the camera make the decision for me!

    You can easily switch from the default setting (of losing AEB when the camera is turned off) to a mode in which you make the AEB on-off decision by accessing Custom Function 1-4 and choosing 1:off...

    I don't remember but, It seems to me that the Rebel model Canon DSLR cameras do not have the selection of on-off for retaining AEB. I don't use a Rebel any longer and did not use AEB when I had one...

  • John R. Sauers July 26, 2010 11:39 pm

    I think you do a wonderful job of explaining the subjects so most everyone can understand. Thank you so much. Johnny S.

  • David Broad May 8, 2010 09:56 pm

    I'm interested in using AEB on a Canon T1 to shoot HDR. Is there a way to adjust the usual burst of three shots to a higher number?

  • Edmcdona February 21, 2010 12:02 pm

    Hey thanks for the tip Millerg, was trying to figure it out on my Rebel XTI, and happened to look at the display when i was getting ready to take a shot. At least on the XTI, you can put it onto continuos shooting, and then just hold down the shutter until you hear the three exposures fire. Also, if you put it on Single Shooting, you have to fire each shutter individualy. You'll see the exposure meter go from center to left (negative exposure) and then far right (positive exposure).

    Hope that makes sense,

  • Rina Minca January 26, 2010 06:27 am

    Thanks for the info. I'm always scared to use the buttons on my camera I don't fully understand because then I might miss the shot and not have what I want. (Unless I'm in the mood of plain playing around) After reading this article, I have the push to go and use that button! Thanks!

  • Joe Marfice January 15, 2010 02:10 pm

    Thanks. Now I see what you mean.

  • Boris January 15, 2010 12:12 pm

    Look at these images on this Google site:

  • Joe Marfice January 15, 2010 10:43 am

    Boris, can you provide a link to an example of what you're talking about?

  • Boris January 15, 2010 09:33 am

    A great benefit not mentioned so far is that the 3 bracketed images can be used to produce a HDR picture using software like HDRArtist (free) and Photomatrix Pro (see website for purchase price). Tis tecnique results in asurprise image with an almost 3D appearance.

  • MillerG January 10, 2010 11:01 pm

    A tip for canon shooters is as follows:
    once you've set your AEB values, set the timer for a 2 second delay.... then once you press the shutter release, the camera will take all 3 shots at once :)
    Works on my XT and 40D

  • Joe Marfice January 10, 2010 02:21 am

    Matt (& Bethard728): from what I can tell on a quick google search, there's no AEB for you D60 guys. Sucks.

    But, as I noted above, raw is a decent cheat for AEB.

  • Matt January 9, 2010 02:13 pm

    I'm with Bethard728, is there any way to do this on a D60? I've looked all over the manual with no luck. Thanks for any help.

  • Haley September 15, 2009 02:12 am

    wow im doing a projects for digital photography and im haven big trouble understanding are camras but this is kinda helping summing up some the options i have when taking photos

  • Shannon September 12, 2009 04:20 am

    Thanks for the reply, Joe. Every time I ask a question here I get a great, worthwhile answer. :)

  • Joe Marfice September 10, 2009 03:00 pm

    Shannon: If there are strong backlights (church windows by day, or LOTS of candles in a candelabra, for instance), I use AEB. Otherwise, for a wedding, the subjects aren't moving around much, and it's pretty easy to set a comfortable exposure, complete with test shots. With the windows, strong fill-flash might be the best bet (more disruptive, but it's either that or no shots that work!), in which case neither AEB nor continuous shooting is possible (the flash takes too long to recharge).

    Now, at the reception, subjects are more on-the-go, but again, the light levels aren't all over the place (at least, for indoor receptions away from big windows). Therefore, I'd definitely want to shoot continuous mode, so I can snag that perfect look on the 4-yo boy's face, and throw away the two with his eyes half-closed.

    RAW can give you extra exposure levels, as noted above, but at the cost of fine-tuning in Photoshop (which takes a lot longer than just picking the best of 3 shots).

  • Shannon September 10, 2009 01:45 pm

    Would it be safe/wise to use AEB during the whole of a wedding? Or are there times during a wedding that continuous mode might be more important? And does shooting RAW negate the need for AEB anyway?

  • bethard728 August 21, 2009 01:18 am

    Can you do this with a Nikon D60? After playing with my camera and reviewing the manual I don't see a way to just hold the shutter button and get 3 different shots. The only way I can see to do it is to adjust the exposure compensation myself, take a pic, adjust it again, take another, etc. I googled and the info I found basically says, yes, I cannot just hold the shutter down and get 3 differently exposed shots. Is that right or do I just not know how to do it?

  • Verneitta June 11, 2009 04:17 pm

    This is really great! I'm a beginner trying to learn about photogrphy and my camera at the same time. I have a Canon Rebel xsi, and I was really confused.
    Now, after reading all of this, it is finally beginning to make some sense, and I'll be better able to set my camera.
    I'm not ready for manual quite yet, and I want to get away from fully automatic. This is so-o-o-o-o cool.
    I looked a lot of places for some information, the manual that came with the camera is good but, I just did not understand what some of those things were, you did a really great job of "breaking it down", so that even a beginner could understand it.


  • Gbenga Loveeyes Images May 21, 2009 08:20 pm

    Thnks for the tip. Just tried and it worked. What a photo experince.

  • TSPhoenix March 29, 2009 05:19 pm

    Not really, with AEB your settings self adjust instantly and in burst shooting you get all three shots right away. While with digital we can instantly review shots, we still don't have some kind of magic that makes subjects stay still for 10 seconds to let us fiddle with dials.

  • wied March 9, 2009 02:49 pm

    of course .. you can read more here :

  • Reina Ramones March 9, 2009 01:58 pm

    how are you gonna put the 3 pictures together? i think that's what most people who are doing the AEB do they combine the shots to give one perfect photo? do i need software for editing to do that? thank you very much!

  • Larry Bradshaw February 25, 2009 08:04 am

    Thanks, this helps a lot!

  • Joe Marfice February 25, 2009 12:48 am

    Larry, 1.0 EV (Exposure Value) is a synonym for 1 stop (a.k.a. 1 aperture stop). 0.3 = 1/3 stop; 0.7=2/3 stop (the numbers are rounded off).

  • Larry Bradshaw February 24, 2009 01:09 pm

    My camera has these settings in AEB: +/- 0.3, 0.7, 1.0 EV

    Which would be considered one stop, the 1.0 or the 0.3?

    I'm a little confused with this?

  • wied February 22, 2009 02:27 pm

    if you know HDR... bracketing is very useful :)

  • Sankar February 7, 2009 03:05 am

    Thanks a lot for the information. I own a Nikon d80 but i was not aware of this feature. I tried it and now I am more confident with this.

  • Noosh January 25, 2009 05:21 pm

    AEB is a big help when you don't have enough time, shots like cutting a Ribon, three mints interview, making portrait for high profile people where you can't hold them for long.
    thanks for the tip.

  • ab January 8, 2009 12:11 pm

    I have a CANON REBEL XT. I found that AEB doesn't produce three image files. I am using Aperture Priority to shoot.

  • Joe Marfice January 7, 2009 02:29 am

    Simon Boyd, the answer to your problem is contained in your question. Save the photos as RAW, instead of JPG, and post-process to choose the desired histogram from the full dynamic range of the original capture (usually 12 bits, IIRC, or 4 full extra stops!). These extra stops are at the "bottom", so they're "underexposed" (the equivalent of stopping down).

  • Howard January 1, 2009 06:09 am

    After a lot of fiddling with my new Nikon D90 I realized I couldn't use it in any of the auto modes, Portrait, Action etc. I had to set the selector to Apt Priority, Shutter Prior. etc.

  • Aton December 31, 2008 02:28 pm

    I like this feature. I shoot with a Canon XTi and it shoots the three shots with one framing and press.

    I find this to be a benefit to the 1.shoot 2.check 3.adjust 4.shoot.

    Typically when I've framed and got the shot I want snapping off three with one press no re frame and refocus is a blessing. Particularly in some situations where time is of some importance (some trickier lighting situations such as children s parties).

    Granted I'm new but what a nice option. The really great thing is it's also a learning tool. Seeing what looked best for what look I wanted, then next time I'm in a similar situation knowing how to set up.

    Even more interesting is when the different exposures get me shots I like equally in spite of the different look.

  • Simon Boyd January 17, 2007 03:24 pm

    The thing that bothers me about bracketing is that the images are taken separately and any movement of the subject will result in a different image. (I use a sony f828) Do any cameras offer 3 bracketed shots from one exposure (ie: maybe altering the raw image in camera on the fly as opposed to taking 3 separate images of different exposure) maybe this would not be as "pure" as 3 separate exposures but would avoid losing the composition, especially with fast moving subjects, or for use with HDRI.)

    on another note, Maybe one of the camera companies could design a DSLR with a three way mirror (prism/pyrmaid type mirror) allowing for a live preview sensor and twin exposures due to having two sensors, that way if you normally overexpose you could bracket a stop down or vice versa.

  • DrMischa January 5, 2007 10:13 am

    I have been playing with the auto bracket feature on my LUMIX point and shoot and have found it especially helpful when the lighting is variable around my subject, deep shadows/xmas lights, etc. Also very helpful when taking photos in broad daylight and/or indoors with natural lighting. It's surprising and fun (to me) to see how the mood of the same shot changes at different exposures.A similar feature is the one that lets you downgrade the flash. It has helped me decrease the white-out that often happens when using flash for macro shots.

  • Fred Neale January 5, 2007 08:22 am

    Hi Michael

    I see none of the techno-snobs could be bothered to explain
    HDR so I found a very good article on it in Wiki. It looks to
    be a very interesting tool and well worth a look up. Try

    BTW LOVE your website - with photos like that you don't need
    post production gimmicks !!!

  • Dennis January 3, 2007 01:49 am

    Excellent article on use of AEB. Very clear and concise relative to camera manual. Thanks

  • EVA.CANTRELL January 2, 2007 03:12 pm

    I found blog after I went in the Canon competition. I love canon camera's and have only been doing photography this last 6 months and I am hooked. I love macro. I have found your blog site to be very easy to understand and most helpful in aspects of photography with the camera that are daunting to read in the manual. Keep it up I love it.

  • Ziv December 24, 2006 08:31 pm

    most of the good point-and-shoot cameras have this option too.

  • Jerry Bradway December 21, 2006 11:00 am

    Haven't read your article on AEB yet, but will say it was a way of life during the 60's and 70's, don't want to mention the 50's and the old Speed Graphic. Oh well back to the article, enjoy them all.

  • Justin December 21, 2006 06:42 am


    That won't work for candids, will it now? If you have the luxury of posing every single shot you ever take, I guess you don't have to worry about AEB. However, even then your camera's LCD screen won't give you a good idea of the actual contrast of the picture under all lighting conditions, such as under direct sunlight.

  • Gopala Krishnan December 20, 2006 09:45 pm

    Good advise, but very frequently forgotten by many. By the way we seem to hear only about Nikon and Cannon. I am a Pentax user. How would you rate this. Model is istdl.

  • Michael Deeter December 20, 2006 04:41 am

    Hmmm... HDR? I'm not familiar with it.

  • Arun December 20, 2006 12:56 am

    Since the days that the world has gone digital AEB is nearly obsolete. In film days, you could not preview your images or see the histograms, which means that you risked loosing an otherwise good image owing to bad exposure. Now, you hardly require that. A better way to do it is to take a shot, preview it, re-expose if you see any problem in the first one.

  • Triglav December 19, 2006 05:05 pm

    Just started reading the blog and the forum. So a compliment on all the articles. This one is great too.

    Just a little remark for david and orangeacid: if you want to do HDR, you need more then 3 pics to get a good HDR image.

    I use about 8 pictures, from very underexposed till very overexposed.

  • orangeacid December 19, 2006 05:38 am

    Useful tutorial for those unacquainted with bracketing :-) Only drawback is that it takes multiple pictures, eating up your space... you just need to be a little proactive in cleaning up your memory card after every few shots.

    Could we have a follow-up article on HDR?

  • david December 19, 2006 04:58 am


    thanks for this tip, I just began experiencing with HDRI and this is a great way to get the necessary shots with one click (well almost !)