Multiple exposures originated in the analogue days of photography.
In the latest and most advanced digital cameras the process is simplified. We receive immediate results unlike with film there was an element of ‘danger’ to it.
What exactly is a Multiple exposure?
It is when the shutter is opened more than once to expose the film and overlay different frames into one.
It can give quite a dreamy/spooky effect. In the old days, this was used to fake the appearance of ghosts in family portraits (that surely was an interesting use).
It can create magical photographs and if you’re using an analogue camera you’ll always have that element of surprise not knowing what the result will be.
Multiple exposures became very popular again a few years ago when Lomography came back as a huge trend around the globe, these small ‘toy cameras’, as they’re called, are very light and portable and the film has very saturated colours, they come with a lot of accessories and they are perfect to play with. Here you can find some examples.
Projects were created where people completed a roll of film and then sent it to a stranger to re-use it as if it were new and get the most amazing results out of it.
With digital cameras everything is even easier.
You can select your multiple exposure mode from your menu (you can decide how many frames you want to layer) and shoot the first one, which will serve as a base.
You can chose between different blending modes:
– Additive, will add the images one on top of the other;
– Average, will add the images on top of one another automatically adjusting the exposure of the final image;
– Bright, gives exposure priority to bright objects even when combined with dark backgrounds;
– Dark, will do the exact same thing but giving priority to dark objects.
Here are some quick guides to Canon and Nikon multi exposure mode.
Let’s take an example of a double exposure portrait. You need to select the ‘multiple exposure’ options from your shooting menu and select the amount of frames you want (we recommend 2 if you’re starting out, it’s going to be easier to control).
To get the best out of your shot you will need your subject to be a silhouette, or to have a small part of the face illuminated (if there’s a detail you want to be able to see clearly) and to eliminate the environment. Shooting against the sky will help you achieving this effect.
The camera will put your base shot overlaid on your live view as a guide (which is a brilliant feature) for you to position your second shot and compose your photo exactly the way you want it.
It is not essential to have a white background in the base image, as long as you still have deep darks and light zones in the same photo you will achieve a different but equally strong result.
This feature can be used on landscapes, as well as on night scenes, it will give a surreal twist to your photo and make it different from anybody else’s.
If you don’t have a camera with the multiple exposure feature you will be able to create one in Photoshop.
You can achieve the same result (if not better) playing around with layers and masks and adjusting your composition and colours the way you prefer.
The rules for a good double/multiple exposure are the same as above: you will need a base image which contains very dark areas, you can make it darker or lighter playing with the levels in Photoshop (Image > Adjustments > Levels) and a light (preferably white) background.
Have your portrait as the base image and import the photo you want to overlay to have them on the same document. Now start playing with the layer blending modes.
The image you put on top is the one you’re going to blend, so select it, decrease the opacity so you can see what’s behind and move it around to achieve the perfect composition. Once you’re happy with it choose from the drop down menu (on the layer panel, just above your top layer) one of the modes. It is normally set to ‘normal’. Since your base image is a silhouette you should chose either ‘Lighten’ or ‘Screen’ (which is the equivalent of Additive/Average on the camera menu) to achieve the desired effect.
Once you have found the right position and the right blending mode you can improve the image the way you prefer, tweaking the colours, increasing contrast, turning it to black and white..The choice is yours!
Some things to keep in mind when shooting multiple exposures:
– You don’t want it to be ‘too crowded’ and hard to read so mix a busy image with a simple one;
– Chose one of the images to have texture in it;
– Remember you always need dark shadows and light parts in both images as it will make the effect more visible and interesting.
We prepared a Pinterest board for you to get some ideas from, so follow it and get inspired!
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Deadline: July 31st 2015.
Top photo credit: © Debbie Castro – LSP Director of Training