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What is Double Exposure Photography and How to I Achieve the Effect?

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

There are many things you can do to get an unusual photography effect, but double exposure photography is bound to turn some hands.

Double exposure photography involves layering two different exposures into a single image. It provides a surreal look that is sure to turn heads.

How Do I Create a Double Exposure Picture?

Double exposure pictures can be taken on a digital camera or with regular film. Here’s how it’s done with regular film.

1. Take your first photo. This step is easy enough. For ideal results, the first image should be your subject which may be a person, animal, flower, etc.

2. Rewind the film and take another photo. This will allow the shutter to open again putting a second exposure on the film. The second photo will be your background, usually a landscape or city scape.

3. Develop Both Images in One Photo: The end result will combine the two images, so they are on top of one another.

If you prefer digital, you will want to use a camera that has double exposure capabilities. Both Canon and Nikon cameras offer this option.

Use the setting on the camera to select a base image from the memory card and take a second exposure on top of the image. The camera will layer the image and adjust the exposure for you.

You can also create a double exposure image during the editing process. To do this:

1. Start with the first image. Open it and use the pen tool to select your subject. Create a mask layer to hide the background.

2. Add the second image and resize it to fit the frame.

3. Use the Blendmode drop down and select ‘Screen’. This will layer the images to create the double exposure effect. You can re-size the image until it looks right.

4. Adjust contrast, color balance, hue and saturation until the photo looks the way you want it to.

Tips for Creating a Double Exposure Effect

Here are some tips that will help you capture terrific double exposure photos.

• Use the flash: You may need to underexpose your images to get the right exposure for the double image. A flash will fill in the light helping you achieve this effect.

• Buy a shutter release cable: This will help minimize camera shake.

• Shoot against a seamless backdrop: A seamless backdrop will create a clean background for your double exposed picture.

• Set the camera in a tripod: The tripod will also eliminate camera shake.

• Underexpose your subject: This will reduce the likelihood that you will overexpose the final image.

• Choose a vibrant background: A vibrant background will make your picture look its best.

Getting Creative

Here are some tips that will help you take your double exposure photography outside the box.

• Blend two photos of the same subject: This will produce a psychedelic look allowing the viewer to see the same subject in two different ways.

• Use color flash gels: Color flash gels will add multiple hues to your exposures.

• Use unusual techniques when merging: Try layering the landscape over just one part of the subject instead of over the entire portrait. This will make for a terrific abstract effect.

• Take black and white photos: If you take black and white photos the images will blend seamlessly making it hard to tell where one begins and the next one ends.

• Blend two exposures: This is not easy to do, but the end result will make it all worthwhile.

A double exposure technique will provide you with stand out images that are worth a second glance. Now that you know how to make it work, you are ready to wow your clients. How will you be integrating this strategy the next time you shoot?

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