This is a quick guide to increase HDR capabilities on the Canon 5D Mark III / II / 7D / 60D or lower model DLSR cameras.HDR Auto Bracketing Tip for Canon DSLR Users. HDR is exploding with popularity and adds an exciting new tool set to the creative world of digital photography. If you are not familiar with the term “HDR”, check out my HDR Tutorials or this excellent HDR overview on Wikipedia. I greatly enjoy capturing HDR images with my Canon DSLR cameras; however, it was rather disappointing to learn the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 7D cameras were still limited to 3 auto bracketed shots as were previous models such as the Canon 50D and Canon Rebel DSLRs. Sure, you can still capture and process HDR images with 3 shots that are 2 f-stops apart i.e. -2,0,2 but sometimes a 5 or 7+ bracketed series HDR image is required to capture the entire tonal range of light in a scene. On the Canon 5D Mark II / 7D / 60D or lower model DLSR cameras, there is no option to increase the auto bracketing to lets say 5 shots i.e. -2,-1,0,1,2 unlike the mid-high range Nikon cameras which all have expanded auto bracketing options and sometimes the two extra captures are useful when masking in some original detail into the final HDR composite image.On the flip side, the Canon 5D Mark III delivers major HDR enhancements with native HDR mode and the ability to capture 7 shot brackets.
Over the past several years, I’ve explored many HDR bracket solutions to overcome the limitation in the Canon DSLRs. The Promote Control shutter cable continues to be my all time favorite workaround as it provides all kinds of HDR bracketing magic with the ability to capture 40+ HDR bracket series, HDR time-lapse and long exposure HDRs. In recent months, I’ve grown to love the native HDR controls in the Canon 5D Mark III which has become my primary HDR setup. I’m also shooting a lot of time-lapse latetely which led me to discover a couple of alternative solutions that I’m evaluating such as GBTimelapse and a new exciting iPhone shutter cable app called Triggertrap Mobile that delivers even more HDR bracketing and time-lapse options then the Promote Control.
Below are some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up while exploring HDR bracket options for Canon DSLRs.
Canon 5D Mark II and 7D in Camera HDR Bracketing
The Canon 5D Mark II and 7D have 3 custom settings on the mode dial to use for quick use custom presets. Initially, I set up C1 to take an auto bracketed series in Aperture Priority mode at -2,0,2. Then I setup C2 with the same exact settings but this time set the bracketing to -1,0,1. Then with the camera securely mounted on a tripod and using the internal timer or an external shutter release cable, I was able to quickly take 2 series of shots that resulted in 5 unique exposures i.e. -2,-1,0,1,2.
In recent months, I’ve adjusted my strategy. I still use my custom presets on the mode dial but now I have C1 setup for video, C2 is my go-to HDR base settings of Aperture mode with brackets set to -2,0,2, f11 and ISO 100. On flip side, I’ve changed my C3 slot to use Manual mode which I need for shooting HDR panoramas. When I started using the Canon tilt-shift lens for panos, I quickly learned it was critical to lock the exposure in manually before shifting to the left or right which causes the camera meter to wig out.
Here are a couple of my favorite HDR images using these bracket tricks:
Hope you found this little workaround helpful. If you know of any other tricks / hacks to increase the auto bracketing sequence on Canon DSLRs, please do share!
Good luck shooting![updated 8/17/2012]