With the invention of digital photography, along with editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Gimp, a new wave of images with clever use of multiple exposures hit photography. But it is definitely not a new practice, nor one reliant on such software.

Multiple exposure photography has been around since film was used in cameras to produce images. The effect can even be created with film pinhole cameras if you wish to experiment with it. Perhaps even discovered by accident, the process involved shooting two or more separate images on the one frame of film. The result was often otherworldly, beautiful and ghost-filled images.

This article will concentrate on double exposures, i.e. using just two exposures to create the image. Double exposures can result in a variety of interesting ways. Normally, the result is a beautiful blend of two scenes overlapping. It can also be used to insert the subject in the image twice. It can create ghosts in the scene. Or it can be used to create surreal images by playing with silhouettes as a key focal point (the base image) with a well-lit exposure (the overlaying image) adding textures within that silhouette.

What are the most important things to do when creating your double exposure? Plan ahead, have fun and experiment!

 

How It Can Be Done In-Camera — With Film

Well, this one is self-explanatory. Grab an old school film camera and experiment with shooting multiple frames without winding the film on. That said, a slightly expensive way to experiment, but it could be a whole lot of fun!

Using the multiple exposure function on my Canon 5D Mk III, this image comes almost straight from the camera, with only some minor White Balance corrections performed while converting from Raw. (C) 2014 Peter Bower.

Using the multiple exposure function on my Canon 5D Mk III, this image comes almost straight from the camera, with only some minor White Balance corrections performed while converting from Raw.
(C) 2014 Peter Bower.

How It Can Be Done In-Camera — With Your Digital Camera
A lot (but not all) digital cameras have the ability to make multiple exposure images in-camera. Now, I’m not going to outline how to do this, because every camera is different. I recommend finding your camera’s manual and looking it up to see whether you can do so or not and what buttons you have to press. But even if you can’t do it in-camera, you can still create the effect through post-production. That said, many modern cameras have options to combine multiple images into a single image or create HDR images. Even your mobile phone can do so if you find an app that works for you.

Tip: If you’re doing your double exposure in-camera, sometimes working with a strong silhouette image as your base image works best. If you have a dark silhouette on a blown-out background, your second, well-lit photograph will fill the dark sections of your silhouette.

 

How It Can Be Done Post-Production
The final way is to use your preferred photo editing software. Plot out what you’re thinking and take your images. Load your favourite image editing software such as Photoshop or Gimp if you’re on a computer. If you’re using mobile devices, there are lots of different apps you can use, with some examples being Little Photo on Android or Image Blender on iOS devices. And start experimenting with the images.

Through the editing software, you can insert each photograph as a layer and play with the opacity of the top layer to create your desired effect. You can also experiment with blend modes, such as Multiply, which will allow you to find different ways in which the images merge and interact with each other creating different effects.

Newcastle Beach. (C) 2014 Peter Bower.   Head Shot. (C) 2014 Peter Bower.
These two images were blended in Adobe Photoshop. With my headshot, though, perhaps not the best source material.

Double Exposure via Photoshop through blending and altering opacity on layers. (C) 2014 Peter Bower.

Double Exposure via Photoshop through blending and altering opacity on layers.
(C) 2014 Peter Bower.

Remember that the only limitations of double exposures are that of your imagination and experimentation! Enjoy seeing what works, what doesn’t work, and what you can create.

Tip: It is important you think about your image and how you want it to turn out. What will be the main feature in the image? What will be the main image and what will be the overlaying / blended image? If you think this through, it will make your task a lot easier, as you need to consider things like how the image is taken and lit for it to work effectively.

 

Below are a few stunning examples of Double Exposure. Make sure you click through to see them in high-res and, in some instances, how they created the image.

r. nial bradshaw   d_pham
Photos by r. nial bradshaw (Left) and d_pham (Right).

Andrew Stawarz   r. nial bradshaw
Photos by Andrew Stawarz (Left and in-camera!) and r. nial bradshaw (Right).

Probably Okay!   i k o
Photos by Probably Okay! (Left and on film!) and i k o (Right).

Steve Corey   Brad Hammonds
Photos by Steve Corey (Left) and Brad Hammonds (Right).

davejdoe   vivek jena
Photos by davejdoe (Left) and vivek jena (Right).

Marcy Kellar   Devanny
Photos by Marcy Kellar (Left) and Devanny (Right).

Kristaps Bergfelds   Sodanie Chea
Photos by Kristaps Bergfelds (Left) and Sodanie Chea (Right).

 

How will you put this fun little experiment into play? Show us your best in the comment field below!

 

Peter Bower Bio PicPeter Bower is a mixed bag of tricks. He is a professional photographer, published writer, English academic, award winning poet, hater of soup, website manager, social media guy, ginger, and creature of the night. He is the Founder of VOTogs. When he’s not working, he is a semi-serious competitive gamer and lover of live music, bad movies and action novels. You can find more of his work at his website and ‘like’ him on Facebook. You can also say hello to him on Twitter @OeterB.

 


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