REDEFINE | Double Exposures

There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “

For me, light is the question/ the answer. Its my worst nightmare and my hero all at the same time. I can’t separate the words ‘light’ and ‘photography’. When I see gorgeous light I search for my camera. When I see crappy/ flat / uninspiring light I stare at my camera and say ‘fix that’. I love anything that’s contrary, awkward, uncooperative and that I can’t control. (to be honest I’m not sure I really want to explore WHY I feel this way, too much self analysis can’t be good for a person!! ) So for me light is EVERYTHING and I want to ‘convince’ it to work with me.

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I first learnt the concept of multiple-laying images when I would overlay illustrations/paintings over photography back in the day using tracing paper, sticky tape and photocopiers. We’re talking real basic – haven’t a clue- type situation. And I LOVED it and continue to use this technique whenever I can. It wasn’t until recently I found out that you could multi-lay/exposure IN digital cameras. You can just imagine my excitement. It was like instant gratification. It was like taking light from one image and transporting it into another which blow my mind. I could story tell/create atmosphere and wonderment with a simple digital button. The possibilities felt endless.

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Six Top Tips for learning about Double Exposures

1) Nearly all digital cameras can now do multiple images. Different cameras handle this process differently. So, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how your camera’s multiple exposure function works. Read the manual if need be before you go out and shoot. Or do what I do and just YouTube it! When first practicing I would use the Overlay setting. Meaning that you shoot normally and overlay them later. This means your ‘combination’ photos can be taken minutes, hours, days or weeks apart, with different lenses, with flash and without—anything goes as long as the photos are on the same memory card and you’ve taken the pictures in RAW format. You can play with the exposure on both/ all images and have fun without having to stand in front of your subject with a confused look on your face. You can be sat on your sofa, with a glass on wine in your hand and learn in peace.

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2) Be brave, be experimental, don’t have an outcome in mind, see what happens. Embrace errors and love accidents. When you come across an image that makes you take a sharp breath in, remember how you achieved that. Study WHY it works, where the light overlays the shadows, there the textures pop out etc. Then practice AGAIN and AGAIN until its no longer an accident, but concisely created. There are no actual rules to shooting double exposures. Be as experimental and as crazy you want to be. There’s one thing you might want to keep in mind, however. Darker subjects or scenes will blend more easily, while brighter or lighter subjects may blow out some details in your double exposure. Many photographers prefer to shoot darker scenes first and lighter scenes second, or shoot a silhouette style shot first then close up of texture/colour detail second (But i have to say this is a tad predictable for me, but it’s a great way to start).

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3) In the beginning I don’ t think you should think about composition. Don’t think about the end product. Deconstruct the assets of the image. Think light/texture/colour/moment. Once you’re getting beautiful or emotive images I think you can then build in the composition. It’s almost like learning how to do ‘mark making’ before you learn to sketch (art college was a long time ago so bare with me!)

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4) Once I’d nailed the ‘overlay’ I would used ‘Live View’ as I found it easier to place images where I wanted them. I was now confident in crediting my mutli-exposures in the field and I could make necessary changes then are there without having to compromise.

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5) Like most photography, it’s all a little lovelier in film. Outlines are not so clean, the blues are well, you know, lush and the process, where I’m all fingers and thumbs makes me love the outcome even more. I took everything I had learnt in digital and used the same technique. I just had to be more careful with the exposure and placement, as obviously there is no ‘cheating’ possibilities in film. You have to visualize the end shot in your head first a lot more than you do in digital. I shoot 35mm with a Nikon F.

Here is a great clip on how to manage your film to double expose. Youtube

6) Enjoy it!

I was lucky enough to be asked to join a group of photographers who are going to spend the year explore the possibilities in this field. Its great to share ideas and inspiration with like minded photographers to have the same creative passion. The Multiple Exposures Project Website

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2 Comments

  1. Your images are beautiful! I never even thought about doing double exposures in camera. Back in high school, my film photography class combined multiple exposures in the dark room. I assumed the way to achieve that with digital was with photoshop. Thank you for opening up possibilities. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much love. Its sooooo easy really! But I truly do love the film DM, but digital means instant love, which you know, with 2 kids now, instant is the name of the game! ha ha ha!

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