Canon 7D Tips – Auto Exposure Bracketing 6 images or more

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During PhotoPlus Expo, I took at great seminar called “Many to One” taught by Katrin Eismann which covered HDR as well as time-lapse and panoramas.  She recommended using 5 or more images for High Dynamic Range.  Since then, I have heard several other photographers recommend the same.  But most digital cameras will only auto-bracket three images.  You could spend $300 on a special remote like Promote Control.  But, with the following technique, you can auto exposure bracket (AEB) 6 images or more with just the Canon 7D.

1. Auto-Exposure Bracketing is accessed through the Menu

7d-bracketing1Push the Menu button on the back of the Canon 7D and use the Multi-Function Controller (joystick) to move to the 2nd Camera Icon screen.  This menu will also show you the current AEB settings on the camera. Push the Set button on the back of the camera to access the AEB.

2. Use the Main dial on the top of the camera to set the auto-bracketing.


The Main Dial (next to the M-Fn button) on the top of the Canon 7D will allow you to set the increment for the auto-bracketing.  Scrolling the dial to the right will allow you to set up to a +/- 3 stops.  Scroll the dial to +/- 1 stop.

3. Use the Quick Control Dial on the back to slide the AEB to the left.


With the AEB bracket set, you can now use the big Quick Control Dial to slide the entire bracketing to the left or right.  By scrolling the dial to the left, the entire AEB will move to the left.  Push the Set button to store the setting.  Now take your first group of 3-shots.

4. Use the Quick Control Dial on the back to slide the AEB to the right.


With the AEB still set to +/- 1 stop, you can use the Quick Control Dial to slide the bracketing to the right.  You can quickly use this technique to take 6 auto-bracketed exposures or more.

5. Use Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5 to combine the photos.


By using the above technique, you will have 6 photos which are sequentially numbered but not in the order of the exposure differences.  Photoshop CS5 will ignore the sequential numbering and assemble the images based on exposure.  (For a more detailed explanation on HDR in CS5, please read my article Photoshop CS5 – HDR & Canon 7D Raw Files.)

6. Adding additional exposures will bring out more detail in HDR.


With HDR, it is important to capture as much detail as possible in the full range of  shadows and highlights.  Photoshop CS5 will do a great job at assembling them into one composite image.


This image is the final composite from Merge to HDR Pro.  The detail is incredible, but possibly a little too busy.  By blurring the outer areas as I did in the first image on this page, I am directing the viewer’s interest while removing additional distractions.

Quick and Easy!  By using the Quick Control Dial along with the AEB, you can auto-bracket as many images as you need.


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31 Replies to “Canon 7D Tips – Auto Exposure Bracketing 6 images or more”

  1. Thanks for all your input and detailed instructions/directions Charles. I find them very helpful and informative considering I’m a “noob” 7D user.


  2. Even though you did slide settings to right, it looks like you took 0EV twice
    -2EV, -1EV, 0EV, 0EV, +1EV, +2EV
    is that correct?

    I’m thinking of upgrading from an XT to a 7D and one of the things I’m wanting is exposure braketing above 3

  3. Yes, I did hit 0EV twice. You can plan to avoid that. But when you are in a busy area, it is more important to be quick. It is very easy to use the 0EV as your dividing line.

  4. Thanks for this tip. I went home last night and tried it on my XT. It works! Even though my EV is -/+ 2, I think it will go to at least -/+ 3 with the adjustment. More testing needed.

    Memphis is a Nikon town, so it looks like I’ll be mail-ordering 7D. Any recommendations? I have dealt with ADORAMA and have no issues.

  5. This seems to work in aperture priority mode but not manual mode. Do you get this too? Have you tried this and had problems with the exposure changing automatically between sets of shots?

  6. That’s a great way to go. Since most of the times in HDR speed is important, personally I follow the steps for setting the first 3 shots and registered the steps for the second series of shots to C1. With just a turn of a knob I’m ready to shot the second series of shots. One could of course register both series of 3 shots in C1 and C2 for even faster (6) HDR picture taking.

    Hope this helps

  7. A nice workaround. But you’re still TOUCHING the camera before you can take the second series of photo, always a chance of knocking it slightly off register. I would amend this with a firm admonition to use a STURDY tripod.

    I also wouldn’t advise using Photoshop’s HDR feature, as it’s not the best. Oloneo PhotoEngine is.

  8. All of the shots in this article were hand-held. THAT is the reason to use Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro! It does an amazing job at aligning images and handling ghosting. No other program comes close.

    I tested Oloneo a few times while it was in beta. I even posted a review of it on my blog. It’s interface is much more user-friendly than the other HDR programs like Photomatix, FDR Tools and HDR Express. But, I was a little disappointed in their pricing.

  9. @Gr8Scot: of course it’s not going to work in manual -> how is the camera supposed to know what setting it can change to vary the exposure? Should it change the aperture or the shutter speed? The only way to let your camera know is by either using Av or Tv. And because the end goal here is to create an HDR shot you want to fix your aperture (Av). The last thing you want is a changing depth of field if you want your image to be sharp.

  10. What iso setting should we use to prevent noise buildup for situation like day and night photography?

  11. Typically, for daylight use either ISO100 or ISO200 (with Tone Highlight Compression enabled) and a maximum of ISO1600 or ISO3200 for night shots. There is a debate that using an ISO with a factor of 160 (ex. ISO160, ISO320, ISO480, etc.) with the Canon 7D produces lower signal-to-noise ratio but I have not tested this. However, the real reduction to digital noise is accomplished in Camera Raw 6 (in Photoshop CS5) and Lightroom 3 which can eliminate digital noise while retaining image detail. You can also use Topaz DeNoise 5 which is excellent.

  12. I am confused, don’t you have to touch the camera to go in and out of the menu and slide the AEB to the right, then press set, for the second series of shots? Or did I miss something?

  13. Nope. The AEB works in groups of three based on the set +/-. Once you take a group, you can roll the Quick Control Dial to a new point to take another group of three and so on. It works very well!

  14. This really sux as you can’t use it in Manual Mode therefore any time lapse HDR will have heaps of flicker. Another software regulation from Canon. I really hope Canon wake up and offer up more exposure bracketing options in their new camera releases. They really are way behind the pack when it comes to this. C’mon Canon, you can do it!!

  15. I just tried it in Manual mode and it does work. You can manually setting the shutter speed, aperture and ISO and then use the Auto-bracketing on top of it. Just be sure that you have enough exposure latitude to accommodate moving the bracketing for additional groups. You may need to increase the ISO to get it to work.

  16. Hi “photoframd”,

    Yes, I can use the normal bracketing feature (3 stops) in Manual Mode, but cannot dial down or up to further the HDR range (i.e 6 stops or more). Switching back to AV mode (for example) and then the 6 stops or more feature is allowed.

    Are you sure you are able to dial in a full 9 stops (for example) in Manual Mode?

  17. @mathieu: leaving your camera on AV Mode is only useful for a single shot. If, for example, you are doing a timelapse sequence and your light in the scene is gonna vary, then one has to shoot in Manual Mode to eradicate any flicker that will occur. Setting the camera up in Manual mode with the best Aperture and Shutter speed (taking in account the average measurement of light in your sequence) and then having the shutter speed stop up or down your brackets is the way to go. This would seem the easiest and most obvious thing Canon should do to automate things. Hopefully this feature will come about on their new 1DX.

  18. I have never seen a flicker in HDR. The software should compensate for any variations. Are you talking about ghosting (things that move from frame to frame)? As I said in the article, Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro is the best at handling ghosts. As for the Manual mode, I just tried shooting 9 shots (3-groups of 3) and it worked. Again, you may need to increase your ISO to be sure that the camera can handle the exposure range.

  19. Hi,

    Really liked your detailed explanation on this. I’ve been wondering how to do it since I got my 7D. I have one question. You mentioned that you did the example photos all hand held. Did you you set up your custom settings for the two different brackets or did you change it using the menu? It’s seems you would loose composition and a slight change in 0ev exposure if you used the menu method. Thanks again … I will try this method today. However, not hand held … I’m not that good! 🙂


  20. Actually, it’s not that hard to do. I use AF Expansion mode for focusing which gives you a single AF point (surrounded by 4 smaller points) with the following technique:

    I pick a specific stationary target to focus on (a sign, part of a building, a flower, etc.).
    Take my first group of bracketed photos.
    Adjust the bracketing group with the Quick Control Dial.
    Find the SAME specific target to focus on.
    Take my next group of bracketed photos.

    I then use Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro to align the photos. It works perfectly!

  21. Hey, thanks for the AF tip! Never thought to do it that way. Thanks for the procedure also! I tried it out yesterday and man … it worked great! I brought them into Lightroom and did some changes and sync them all. Then I thought I’d to a test with CS5 HDR Pro and Nik HDR Efex Pro. Both did a great job of alignment and ghosting. I’m a little better at using HDR Efex Pro so I finish up with that plug-in.

    Thanks again for your AF tip and AEB tip! Just awesome! Oh, I tried to download your Blue night preset, but it gave me a page error. Any ideas?



  22. I was at the same place as the link you just provide, but this time I was able to download it. Have no idea why I couldn’t last time Nov 9th. It would give me a page error every time. Got it now! Thanks it’s great preset!


  23. What a great hint! I never thought about that to make use of it to get more than the 3 standard shots. I love it and will try it as soon as I have my hands on my 7D again…

  24. Great tip. I always wondered how others were able to make more than the three standard shots (which I therefore make at -2, 0 and +2). The ‘intermediate steps’ (-1 and +1) can be ever so useful!

  25. While the method you describe works well and I’ve been using it for a year or more on my 7D, I still believe Canon is way behind Nikon in this regard because there are several Nikons that will do 6-9 bracketed exposures at one time without having to pull up a menu or quick menu to move your bracketing set for the second group of 3 shots. I sometimes let 0EV overlap in both sets of brackets (using Av mode) and often find that the two 0EV shots are not the same look just because of the 3-5 seconds it takes to to move the bracketing (most notable in sunrise/sunset or brightly lit days where the highlights and shadows far exceed the capability of a single shot). I mostly use a tripod for shooting bracketed shots to make the alignment easier.

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