Double exposure photography, a technique that began in a world before Photoshop, blends two or more images into a single frame. This guide will unlock the secrets of perfect in-camera double exposures, letting you add surreal textures and scenes to your shots. But why tell you when I can show you? Here are some of my examples:
Understanding Double Exposures
Double exposures come in two flavors: in-camera and post-production. The in-camera method, originating from film photography, involves taking two photos on a single frame. You’d rewind the film and shoot over the same frame again, resulting in a unique blend of the two images.
On the other hand, the digital method uses software like Photoshop to import and tweak the images, giving you endless creative control. Want to see it in action? Check out this video demonstration.
To master double exposures, you need to understand exposures. Imagine each double exposure as a glass of water. An empty glass signifies an area of underexposure, and a full glass denotes an area of overexposure. Keep this mental image handy as we dive deeper into the process.
Essential Gear for In-Camera Double Exposure Photography
To create in-camera double exposures, you need a camera (digital or film) that supports multiple exposures. Several digital cameras come with this feature, including Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 1D X, and 70D; most Nikon DSLRs; Fujifilm’s X-T1, X-Pro1, and X100s; and Olympus OM-D E-M5. If you’re unsure, check your camera’s manual.
For film cameras, consider Nikon FE/FM/FA FM, Canon AE-1, Konica T3, T3N and T4, Contax 139 and 159MM, and Minolta XD, XE-1 and XE-7. You can find these and more on eBay. I highly recommend the Nikon FM2.
The Double Exposure Process
Portraits are an ideal start for double exposures because it’s easier to control the subject’s exposure against the background. You can quickly get a decent result. But remember, double exposures are about embracing the unpredictable and creating beauty through randomness.
The First Image
Start by taking a photo of your subject. Meter the image from the darkest part of the subject, or place it/them against something bright, like the sun. If you’re unsure about the metering system, underexpose the image by 1-2 stops to avoid overexposing everything.
On a film camera, you can adjust this by changing the film’s speed (from 100 to 200 or 200 to 400). On a digital camera, adjust the exposure compensation to -1. This positions the subject slightly underexposed, with the background heading towards overexposure.
The Second Image
Look for something with a lot of color and texture for your second image. Well-lit subjects can significantly enhance the final image. Think autumn foliage, flowers, trees, sunsets, cloud patterns, textured wallpaper, etc. Ensure the texture is evenly distributed across the area where your subject was in the first image.
When Photoshop Comes to the Rescue
If your camera doesn’t support multiple exposures, or you want to create the “perfect” image, Photoshop is your ally. Start by opening your “subject” photo, then add the texture image as the second layer. Select “multiply” from the drop-down menu under the layers window and adjust the exposure until you achieve your desired look.
With Photoshop, your creativity is the limit. You can create any image combo you can dream of. However, I won’t dive into this too much, as it veers into composite photography territory.
A World of Possibilities
Once you grasp the glass-of-water analogy, blending images in-camera becomes a breeze. You’ll find that early success in a project like this fuels your creativity. So don’t be afraid to play around and experiment. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
– Experiment with different textures.
– Use different subjects and perspectives.
– Blend two completely unrelated images to tell a story.
– Take a close-up shot of your subject, then another shot from a distance or another angle.
– Use colored flash gels to take multiple exposures of a subject in different colors.
– Use a tripod to take an image of yourself or a subject, then have them move and take a second exposure
Now you’re armed with the knowledge to create stunning in-camera double-exposure shots. It’s time to get creative and share your work!