First, I am not an expert in photography, but a programmer. I am currently programming a camera for Exposure fusion, mixing maybe 3 images with different shutter speed.

I am looking for an optimal solution for automating this part. My base idea is that 3 photos should be enough and that one of the photos should use a shutter speed from auto mode. Then based on if the auto value is one the lower or higher end of shutter speeds I am choosing different approaches.

For example, if auto value is on the higher end I choose two lower values on the other two photos. The idea behind this is that I am wasting one of the 3 available photos if I take another photo in the "higher end".

The question is if this is the correct approach and if there is any recommendation based on this?

As an example we could say that we have shutter speeds of 1-10. What algorithm should we use to set shutter speed on the other two photos for each auto value of 1 to 10.

Keep in mind that this will be an automatic calculation and no user will control this.

  • I'm not sure this is on topic here -- it seems like this is more an image processing algorithm question than a photography question. It's not even clear from your question what you're trying to achieve by combining images -- are you looking to implement a high dynamic range system, or something else? You should probably start by learning about HDR.
    – Caleb
    Jan 23, 2017 at 17:12
  • Exposure fusion - not HDR: digital-photography-school.com/…
    – serializer
    Jan 23, 2017 at 17:19
  • 1
    Despite what the linked page says, exposure fusion is very much a method of hdr tone mapping. Whether or not intermediate hdr images are created is a technical detail.
    – ths
    Jan 23, 2017 at 18:14
  • 2
    @serializer, I have a bad news for you: You are inventing already invented.
    – Crowley
    Jan 23, 2017 at 18:24
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    @serializer Exposure fusion is a form of HDR imaging, as are a lot of other techniques that have been used since 1850 to squeeze more dynamic range into a lower dynamic range medium. For more please see: What's the difference between “Fake HDR” and real, bracketed exposure HDR?
    – Michael C
    Jan 23, 2017 at 19:13

3 Answers 3


There is no lower or higher end of shutter speeds in the sense you seem to be using. Ie., there are technical limits for every camera, eg. 1/8000 to 30 secs., but if you reach those, you'll have to adjust another exposure variable anyway as you'll be shooting extremely dark/light subjects.

The "auto" exposure will always be the middle of any exposure bracket you want to make, as the camera determines auto exposure to produce a scene of a middle gray average. To capture the full range of a high dynamic range scene, you need a slower and a faster exposure (if you've determined you want three exposures).

Remember, every doubling or halving of shutter speed gives you 1 stop additional dynamic range, to extend your range by, eg. 4 stops you'll take a picture with 1/4 and one with 4 times the middle exposure time.

  • In other words, your application should not use spot metering for the initial shot. This should usually prevent the case where one of the over/under bracketing shots is "wasted" because the initial image is already over/under exposed overall. Jan 23, 2017 at 20:20
  • @ rhs -- The maximum dynamic range is achieved when the exposure is spot-on. Over or under exposure yields reduced dynamic range. Jan 23, 2017 at 21:07
  • @AlanMarcus for a single exposure. We're talking about hdr bracketing here, aren't we?
    – ths
    Jan 23, 2017 at 21:10
  • @ rhs -- sorry I missed that point! Jan 23, 2017 at 21:44

You are describing what we call in photo jargon “bracketing”. We choose our best guess at the correct exposure and then make a series of exposures. The idea is, we bracket the spot-on with one higher and one lower as to exposing energy. This can be accomplished by increasing / decreasing the working diameter of the cameras aperture. This can also be accomplished by increasing / decreasing the shutter speed. It is also possible to accomplish a bracket using both shutter speed and aperture.

The first question to be considered is the increment of change. Traditionally the photo industry has uses the magnitude of one “f-stop” as the principle increment. This is a doubling or halving of the exposing energy. Thus 1 f-stop is a 2X incremental change. To accomplish a three exposure series using shutter speed, the factor is 2x the base time – base time – 0.5x the base time. If the 2X increment is too course, you use a 1/2 stop increment which translates to a 150% of base time – base time – 50% of base time. If this increment is too course, than the 1/3 stop increment is next.

If you choose the use to use an aperture adjustment as opposed to shutter speed, we adjust the aperture in terms of an f-stop which is a ratio. This this focal length of the lens divided by the working aperture diameter. This method is used because the ratio is dimensionless. In other words, any lens functioning at a given f-number yields the same image brightness regardless of the dimensions of the lens. So a camera set to f/8 exposes a scene exactly the same as another camera set to f/8, even if the two cameras are different as to size or lens. To make a bracket based on a 2X change via f/number, the factor to use as the multiplier or divisors is the square root of 2 = 1.414. Thus: Base f/number x 0.707 (invers of sq. root 2) – base f/number – base f/number x 1.414).

To adjust the f/numbers in 1/2 stop increments the factor is the 4 root of 2 = 1.189 and its inverse 0.84. To adjust the f/numbers In 1/3 stop increments the factor is the 6 root of 2 = 1.122 and its inverse 0.89.


The purpose you have mentioned in the comment is wahat Canon label HDR backlight control. In the user manual for EOS 700D/Rebel T5i on page 74 there is:

When shooting a scene having both bright and dark areas, use the HDR* backlight mode. When you take one picture in this mode, three continuous shots are taken at different exposures. This results in one image, with wide tonal range, that has minimized the blocked-up shadows caused by backlighting.
* HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.

To be honest I do not know how the camera accomplishes the different exposures but I think it alters apperture or ISO. Altering shutter speed will lead to merging images with different motion blur. Altering appertures leads to different depths of focus and altering ISO leads to different noise levels, though. It, definitely, uses algorithm that tries to minimize all the effects I have mentioned.

  • Right, I am just saying that all cameras may not have this feature. Also, I may want to adjust the number of different exposure levels I want to use (pictures I want to take).
    – serializer
    Jan 23, 2017 at 19:33

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