My DSLR offers both a HDR mode and a exposure bracketing mode (which I can then post-process into HDR).

Since I mostly shoot in RAW, HDR not usually not available but bracketing is. Therefore, I wonder if I should ever consider using JPEG recording mode with HDR instead.

So far I can think of two reasons:

  1. When I am low on card memory space, using in-camera HDR saves space.
  2. When I take exposure bracketed shots, I have to post-process the image to create a HDR from it, so in-camera HDR is more convenient.

Any other good reasons not to use bracketing?

  • 2
    I think you're pretty much there. The only thing I'd say is that if you're short on memory card space, the solution is to stick in another card not compromise what you're doing. Memory cards are so small and so cheap that you should never be running out of space unless you're in really exceptional circumstances.
    – Philip Kendall
    Nov 13, 2013 at 11:04
  • 1
    3. When you are certain you will never want a non-HDR version of the scene... HDR is a one direction process so only commit to it if you are certain you'll never want to unpick it (if you keep the bracketed originals, this will always be an option).
    – dav1dsm1th
    Nov 14, 2013 at 1:04
  • I should have been more specific - my comment assumes some form of tonemapping will take place in the "in-camera-HDR-mode".
    – dav1dsm1th
    Nov 14, 2013 at 1:16

3 Answers 3


It is always a matter of control versus effort.

Use the built-in HDR function when you want instant results. This completely depends on the camera but some do an awesome job at producing realistic looking HDR and minimizing ghosts while others do a terrible job at either or both. So far, my personal opinion is that Panasonic does the nicest built-in HDR rendition while the Pentax one does not produce usable results often. Nikon and Olympus are somewhat in between. Haven't tried enough on Fuji, Sony and Canon to say.

Use bracketing when you want complete control but have the time to work on it. It takes time merging HDR images and tweaking parameters until the results look nice and you may need to try many times until you get something usable. If there are moving elements in your scene, manually bracketing often greatly increases the chances of good results since you can take each frame at a time where things are in a better position, wait for a large truck to pass between frames, etc.


Just like saving files as JPEGs versus RAW, in-camera HDR is all about the convenience of letting the camera almost instantly make many of the decisions for you versus the control of doing it yourself at the expense of your time in post processing.

In addition to the two reasons cited in your question, you could also use the in camera HDR to test a particular scene for the suitability of making an HDR image. If the result looks something like what you envision, you could then take your three (or more) bracketed shots saved as RAW files for more precise processing in post.

  • In addition to your first paragraph: at least the Nikon D5100 doesn't allow to use HDR function when using RAW or RAW+JPEG. It only works with JPEG only.
    – Karsten S.
    Oct 11, 2017 at 20:19
  • @KarstenS. That's already a given as it is pointed out in the question.
    – Michael C
    Oct 11, 2017 at 23:33

A reason not to use in-camera HDR is if you want to merge the bracketed photos into one photo using a different technique from HDR, like exposure fusion. I find that it gives me far more realistic results than HDR, which often has a painted or otherwise unnatural look.

If you're using a Mac, Photomatix ($39) is considered the default option for exposure fusion.

Even if you're not interested in exposure fusion, not doing HDR in-camera gives you extra flexibility -- if you don't like the HDR result, you still have the non-HDR photos available. I find that HDR often looks fine on a small screen but ugly on a laptop-sized or larger monitor.

  • The question is looking for reasons not to use bracketing, but this answer seems to be about reasons not to use in camera HDR.
    – Philip Kendall
    Jun 7, 2014 at 7:41
  • The title of the question implies that Thomas is interested in both sides of the coin, but in any case, this is useful information regarding this decision. Jun 7, 2014 at 7:50

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