Firstly, let me state that this tutorial has generated a lot of discussion in a small amount of time. I’d like to state that this is not the only way to shoot brackets for HDR in the Nikon D800 and there are other methods using a cable release and shooting at Continuous High (CH) which has less potential to have cloud or foliage movement show up in the final image, since it is done in a shorter time period. People have messaged me discussing the option for being able to set all different Bracket settings into their User banks A, B, C and D, which I’m told can be done (this would be great !). Can we do this in mirror lock up mode ? What about starting the bracket with a timer of 10 seconds will this rule out the shake from you pressing the shutter release and tripod movement ? We all have lots of Questions !
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HERE’S THE TUTORIAL YOU NEED ! IN DETAIL
What I’ve shared is open for discussion and is a work in progress, so if you have any information to add to the discussion or want to say thanks leave your comment below and we can all learn the best method that suits us individually, and all this information is free so you can take it with a grain of salt. I’ve just noticed a lack of information and sharing of technique on HDR on the D800, HDR bracket choices on the D800 and HDR User bank settings on the D800 and felt like facilitating an environment to further our understanding of it.
So all that said (BIG breath in ! haha) I have written this guide for those of you out there who have purchased a Nikon D800 and are unsure on how to setup your camera to take bracketed sequences for HDR images at the press of a button ! Im offering one method on how you can achieve this without a remote and just pressing your shutter button once without holding it down.
There is a section in the manual describing how to do a bracket but I’ve found that it didn’t fit the types of brackets I wanted to shoot, and by that I mean for HDR images. Instead I have worked out a method/workflow myself that has a 2 second time delay and all I do is press the shutter button and the sequence fires off. This means that you won’t get any camera shake on that first exposure which is very important on the D800 since any blur is amplified on its huge 36MP Full Frame Sensor. A side note, I use a tripod on 99% of my brackets. The only time I wouldn’t use a tripod was if I was in a museum or a similar location where it was impossible to set one up.
So here is the order in which I setup my D800:
-Firstly turn your camera on , had to put this in !
-Press the MENU button
-Using the navigational PAD making sure you are in the left hand column go to the ‘pencil’ CUSTOM SETTING MENU
-Press right on the navigational pad, and navigate down to ‘c-Timers/AE lock’, and hit right again.
-Navigate to ‘c3-Self-timer’ and click either the round button in the middle of the navigation pad OR right on the navigation pad to select it.
-Once inside the Self-timer MENU you have 3 options that you are able to change: Self-timer delay, Number of shots and Interval between shots.
-Now firstly navigate to ‘Self-timer delay’ by having it highlighted in the menu and pressing either the small button in the middle of the navigation pad OR right on pad. I prefer 2seconds but select the time delay you would prefer for the bracket sequence to start after you press the shutter release button and press OK. The OK button is down the bottom left on the back of the camera.
-Now navigate down to ‘Number of shots’ and press the button in the middle of the navigation pad or right. Once in here you will just have a counter which goes from 1 > 9. Select the number of shots you want in the bracket e.g. 3, 5 or 7 and hit the OK button down the bottom left. I usually use 5 unless I’m shooting directly into the sun in which case I use 7.
-The third option is ‘Interval between shots’ and I select 0.5s but you have the option of 0.5s, 1s, 2s or 3s. Highlight the option you would like and hit the OK button.
You also have to select which type of Bracket you want to shoot. For HDR it is best to shoot an AE bracket. To set this option, follow these instructions.
-Press the MENU button
-navigate to the pencil ‘CUSTOM SETTING MENU’ and press right
-go down to ‘e-Bracketing/flash’ and press right OR the middle button on the navigation pad.
-navigate to ‘e5-Auto bracketing set’ and press right.
-highlight the ‘AE- AE only’ option and hit the OK button, which is down the bottom left on the back of the camera. AE-only means you are only bracketing the ‘exposure’.
Now you have to get out of the MENU simply by pressing left or the MENU button continuously until the screen is blank.
What to change on the camera body to get your Nikon D800 into Bracket mode, follow this workflow:
- Press the release mode dial button and turn the Mode dial to ‘Self timer’
-Now on the other side of the camera Press the ‘MODE’ button and turn the ‘Main command Dial’ until you see an ‘A’ in the Control Panel. This is Aperture mode and the mode you want to use when shotting Brackets for HDR. It keeps a constant Aperture for the entire bracket sequence and automatically selects Shutter speeds for you.
-The Next step is to press and hold the ‘BKT’ Bracket button and rotate the ‘Main Command Dial’ to match the number of exposures you selected back in your ‘Self-timer delay’ option. So 3F for 3 shots, 5F for 5 shots and 7F for 7 shots.
-You can also adjust the ‘Exposure increment’ from 1/3, 2/3 and 1EV. To do this press and Hold the ‘BKT’ Bracket button and rotate the sub-command dial and you will see on the control panel the Exposure increment changing from 1.0, 0.7 and 0.3 which is the above numbers but in a numeral value.
-Select an aperture you want for the bracket by rotating the sub-command dial. e.g. 2.8, 10, 22 etc.
-The final step is to set your camera to manual focus. So what I do is select where I want in focus in the image. Focus on that area using the camera in Auto-focus mode and then change the camera to Manual Focus. If you have the camera in Auto-Focus mode it will be searching for Focus in each frame and if you have moving objects in the frame such as cars or people this will interfere with the shot. You want each frame to have the same plane of focus so when you combine them in your HDR software, similar objects and areas have the same sharpness.
-You can also Set your ‘ISO’, ‘QUAL’ and ‘WB’ to the desired choice by pressing and holding the desired one and rotating the command dial. I shoot ‘QUAL’ in RAW so I’m able to have control over aspects of the image in Adobe Lightroom and then convert them to JPEG’s later.
Thats it !!!
- Now you Frame the photograph and press and release the shutter button, which you do NOT need to hold and your sequence of Bracketed images for HDR will be shot according to the bracketing program. If it works correctly you can watch in the Control panel and you will see the Aperture stay the same and only your shutter values changing.
*Note- Things to be aware of- sometimes if you are changing options such as the aperture and ISO etc. The Number of shots (e.g. 3F, 5F) will go back to zero (0F). So it’s a good habit to continuously press the BKT button before you fire off a sequence to check it is still at 5F etc. because if you spend a day walking around shooting brackets you are definitely going to be using different apertures, ISO and WB which will inevitably end up sending the BKT to 0F. So just make a habit of going through the camera body sequence or otherwise when you get home you will find you have a bracket with all the same exposures.
So this is how I setup up my Nikon D800 and you may do it differently but I’ve found this works for me in pretty much any situation.
I think something like this needed to be written because there are directions out there on the net but not all in one workflow like this. I had to work this out myself through trial and error and thought it would be good to share it with other Nikon D800 users.
Examples of my own HDR work taken with the Nikon D800 + Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8
HDR image #1 – “Fog on the move” by Luke Zeme
HDR image #2 “Golden Fog“, by Luke Zeme
That’s it for the Nikon D800 HDR Bracket Camera Guide. Post-processing your images is a whole different kettle of fish and will not be discussed in the post, maybe some time I will write a tutorial on how I was able to achieve the images above by processing them.
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Thanks a lot,
Please leave a comment or Question below… Luke Zeme