What Is Double Exposure Photography?

Standing out from the crowded market of photography can be challenging. Every aspect of photography has been created and recreated again. To stand out, you must first find your style. Exploring new and different techniques in photography is the best way to grow! One exciting technique is by utilizing Double Exposure.

Double exposure creates a dynamic look to any composition. This technique can add texture to what would be, an otherwise flat image. Essentially, double exposure is overlaying multiple images on the same frame. In this technique you may alter and impose a mood or creative design on to your images.

What Is Double Exposure Photography?

The dictionary.com definition of double exposure is “the act of exposing the same film, frame, plate, etc., twice.” In simplest terms, double exposure is merging two images onto the same frame. There are many different techniques to achieve double exposure, but the most popular of these techniques would be in-camera (if your camera supports this) or through Adobe Photoshop.

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In-Camera Double Exposure

First, you must check that your camera supports multiple exposure mode. Most Nikon model cameras have this feature built in. A few examples of other multiple exposure cameras are:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 1D X and 70D
  • Fujifilm’s X-T1, X-Pro1 and X100s
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5

If you have a camera that supports multiple exposure mode, enable that feature, and then you are ready to get started!

After enabling multiple exposure you are going to have to take two separate images. The first image will be the base layer in your composition. A great starting point is choosing a portrait photograph as you can have better control over the exposure and background. A nice flat, white background creates a perfect base for multiple exposure as it helps eliminate unwanted elements.

The second image for multiple exposure photography should add a burst of colour or texture, as this creates the most beautiful results in double exposure photography. Using a tripod for this second photo could enable a wider range of possibility. It is important to have proper exposure for this image as it will stick out. Some subjects that create beautiful secondary exposure are landscapes, forest, and even astro-photography.

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Double Exposure In Photoshop

Double exposure can be achieved easily in Photoshop through 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Select the two images you’d like to overlay. Try choosing a base image with a white background. A portrait is a great option for the base image. The second image should help to create colour or texture to your composition, which will result in a dynamic texture on your otherwise flat base image.

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Step 2. Align your images over one another until you are happy with the final composition. Change the blend mode of your secondary image to “Screen” to create the overlay. Adjust the opacity of your secondary image layer until you can see the base image clearly with the secondary providing texture.

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Step 3. The final step is just creating adjustments to colour and tone. Explore different techniques such as black and white or gradient colour. Use the levels tool to adjust both images and what is emphasized within them. Try erasing some of the secondary image so that you are not losing detail in important areas. As seen in the image below we changed both images to black and white. We had then applied a purple gradient overlay to add a pop of colour. Lastly, we erased some of the secondary image around the subjects face as to not lose the main focal point.

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Not being afraid to try new and different forms of photography and editing is very important for growth. As a person in a creative field you must be open to new and different things. Double exposure photography is a very interesting and fun way to uncover new techniques. In-camera double exposure can be confusing for most beginner photographers, but through practice, you will become stronger and more comfortable doing this. Try shooting a variety of different subjects, don’t stick to what you’re comfortable with or there will be no growth. Always remember not to be afraid to try and fail. The best creatives learn from their failures more than their success.

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