In the world of artistic photography, double exposures can result in some very interesting stuff. Some can be well thought out compositions with shapes and exposures meant to compliment the other frame. Others can be happy accidents that exhibit a magic mixture of luck and randomness. In either case (and any case in between), a good double exposure catches the viewer’s attention and presents a distorted reality that would not be possible to see without a camera.

Here are a few tips to get you started with double exposures.

  • Pay attention to shadows and highlights in each exposure. You’ll notice that large areas of shadow on one exposure will allow the highlights to show through from the other exposure. If you line up shadows on both exposures, you’ll get little detail due to underexposure. If you line up highlights from both exposures, you’ll get a faded looking image with low contrast.
  • Try to keep at least one of the exposures rather simple. Two busy exposures will typically result in chaos and make everything harder to see (unless chaos is what you’re going for).
  • To create a “ghost”, put the camera on a tripod and take the first exposure. Then remove or add objects or people and take the second exposure without moving the camera.
  • If you wan to go the film route, don’t forget to underexpose by one stop for a double exposure (2 stops for 4 exposures, etc). And make sure you know how to double expose with your specific camera.
  • If you want to go the digital route, one method is to underexpose as you would with film (or do so with post processing) and apply a screen layer blend (which essentially mimics the process of projecting two slides onto one screen). More details on the digital process in this article: Digital Multiple Exposure.
  • And most of all, experiment and have fun with it. Over time, you’ll get a sense for how the two exposures work with each other and you can really start to form the final image to your intent.

And here are some pretty awesome multiple exposures from Flickr. Most (if not all) of these were done with film. If you have some double exposures of your own (and/or tips for double exposing), drop them in the comment section below the article.

I am what I have found
Creative Commons License photo credit: FilmNut

raina
Creative Commons License photo credit: cx33000

Alien Sunset
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Some Time on Earth
Creative Commons License photo credit: *it’s not a cabaret

Britain in Bloom
Creative Commons License photo credit: slimmer_jimmer


Creative Commons License photo credit: moominsean

Office building
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrea [bah! la realtà!]

double exposure
Creative Commons License photo credit: depinniped

Church of St. Thomas the Martyr
Creative Commons License photo credit: teotwawki

Towers over Tribeca
Creative Commons License photo credit: gaspi *your guide

ghosts
Creative Commons License photo credit: twinleaves

Bursting WindMill
Creative Commons License photo credit: FilmNut

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Here’s some recent ones of mine:

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November 18, 2009 2:15 pm

Hey Brian – thanks for the link & great post on the topic. Your blog is looking really good! One of these days I’ll be getting back to more regular posting… :)

November 19, 2009 3:00 am

My technique has been mostly random shooting one roll, rewinding it and shooting it again. A case of blind shooting with some cool results.

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November 21, 2009 6:02 pm

Great blog Brian, very creative photographs.

November 24, 2009 11:49 am


Thanks for these tips !
Jean-Michel

March 28, 2010 9:39 am

Hey, check some of the double exposure pics that I’ve taken yesterday:
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November 7, 2010 10:00 am

Comment now!