Sunday, April 11, 2010

Double Exposures

Here's a really simple technique that I had fun experimenting with. With film SLRs, you could literally expose your film twice. You would just leave the camera on a tripod, underexpose a photo by one stop, rewind the film, move something in the photo, and expose the same frame again. With digital, it's pretty hard to do that in-camera. But it's really easy to do it in Photoshop (or GIMP, or any other editor that supports layers).

click to enlarge, or see it on Flickr
Aperture: f/3.5 (both frames)
Shutter Speed: 4 seconds (both frames)
ISO: 100 (both frames)
Focal Length: 23 mm (both frames)

First, set up your camera on a sturdy tripod. For the best results, you need to keep the camera perfectly still between shots, otherwise you'll end up with ghosting. For this reason, I chose to shoot inside, because it was a rather windy day. It was kind of dark in this room, which explains the long shutter speed.

Anyway, for digital "double exposure" photos, you don't need to worry about underexposing by a frame or anything like that. Just take two photos with the subject (in the example above, it's me) moving between them.

Then load into Photoshop. I converted to black and white because the color temperature and stuff looked really awful. The technique would probably work just as well in color. Once you have any corrections done (make sure they're exactly the same for each photo), simply copy and paste one photo over the other in a new layer. The blending mode should stay on "Normal." Then change the opacity of the top layer to 50%. This will make a balance between the exposure of your subject in each frame. If you wanted one to be fainter, adjust the opacity accordingly.

That's it! Flatten the image and crop if desired. I think I will be having a lot of fun with this technique.


  1. How fun! I totally want to try this now! I think I am equally intrigued by the tiny door in the photo, however!

  2. Andrew great write up I'll have to try this soon Although I've used auto pano which works quite well

  3. Is it a tiny door? Or is Andrew a giant?? LOVE this - soooo cool! I will definitely have to try this. Very clever - nice visual story and technique!

  4. I'm only 7'3"... that's not THAT tall...

    Haha, no. The door is to a wiring closet, and no more than 4' high.


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