In lieu of HDR, I use bracketing when I shoot interior photos of rooms and/or buildings, and choose the image which best distributes the light across the entire frame.
In my line of work, bracketing involves taking three or five (or even seven in some cameras) successive shots with the purpose of mitigating any “blown out” or overexposed areas of the frame, without underexposing the darker areas beyond recovery. For example, assume the camera exposes a particular shot at 1/60 a second…that becomes the “middle” exposure. In the image shown below, I already know I don’t want to slow the shutter below what the camera has already exposed because the windows will be too blown out to recover. So, I bracket only to shoot underexposed shots…three of them in one stop increments: 1/60 (the first shot being the exposure the camera chose), 1/120, and 1/240 a second.
The goal, for me, is to strike the closest balance I can between highlighted areas of a photo and the darker shadows. Typically, for reasons which I do not understand, DSLRs can recover much more information from darker areas than highlighted areas. Therefore, I usually expose for the highlighted areas of an image (the brightest areas), which will bring those blown out areas within an acceptable limit in the histogram, all the while doing my best to retain the information which I can pull out of the shadows in post process, without introducing too much “noise”.
In the photo below, the image was exposed at 1/2 a second. In this raw, unprocessed image you can see the wide dynamic range between the windows and the darker areas of the couch and walkway off to the right. This was the image among the five bracketed shots which didn’t underexpose the shadows beyond recovery, while also maintaining the best exposure for the highlighted areas in the windows and skylights:
Once you bring out the shadows a little, you get a relatively balanced exposure throughout the image:
It’s not a great photo by any means…I would have preferred to shoot this room early in the morning, so the skylights wouldn’t be blown out by the sun overhead. But, it gives you a good example of how exposing for the brighter areas of the photo can work, as long as the shadows are recoverable.