THE ART OF DOUBLE-EXPOSURE

October 8, 2015

In continuing with our celebration of our new website and bringing more education to our community we have a fun post for you today brought to you by the amazing team over at Bubblerock! A few months ago they shared a blog post on the art of double-exposure and I knew it would be a great share for our audience!! You can check out their original post here as well as browse through their amazing work!! In case you didn’t know Bubblerock is who filmed and made our amazing super 8 film on our workshops page.  Robin and Steph are such a talented team and definitely one to follow on social media, they are always traveling!!
Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 10.05.01 AMThe art of double-exposure (and multiple exposure) is about capturing two or more images on one single frame. We will focus here on our process and experience shooting multiple exposures on film.

Shooting multiple-exposures requires two things: you need to know how to stop your camera from advancing film automatically and you need to think about what effect you are intending to achieve. We will be showing three main styles of double-exposure that we have identified, and for lack of better words, let’s call them “the outline”, “straight double” and “scape & space”.

But first, two important initial concepts:

1. As you are exposing your film twice (or more), you should really “under-expose” your shots otherwise you will overlay white on white. You need to keep “dark spots” to expose more information over it.

2. In the same vein, when you take your second (or more) picture, it will expose over the dark areas, and your highlight areas will capture less information because it is already “too” exposed.

TIP: when it comes to metering and setting your exposure; in overcast and darker settings, we choose to go one stop down to what we would normally shoot at. In a brighter day, we would stop 2 down (maybe more) on the first picture depending how much detail we want to keep.

HOW TO STOP FILM FROM ADVANCING
On the Contax645, there is a switch that you need to turn on. For as long as it is switched on, the film will not advance so you can keep taking pictures after pictures and they will lay on top of each other. So it important to remember to switch it off before your last intended frame so that film advances after the last shot.

NOTE: Certain cameras do not have that option so our trick has been to “roll” the film back one frame; but it is more guess work than perfect overlay though it is the only way we have found to work for us so far.
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THE OUTLINE
This is probably the most common style of double exposure and probably the easiest one to achieve. The concept here is to create an outline (often with someone’s profile) and lay patterns over it.

Our best results were when we captured someone’s profile over a white background. When you have no access to a bright white wall to put someone against, use the sky, shooting back lit. The more contrast there is between the “dark” and the “white” part of your frame, the more striking the result will be. Remember to shoot darker so your outline is darker and becomes a great frame for your second shot. Then take a shot of what you wish the pattern to be. Often, we use what’s around: trees, a cityscape, flowers, …

TIP: when you compose your shots, choose to have the same “direction” for your shots. Keep the sky/bright area on the same side, and your outline and pattern on the other side. This way, white will be exposed on white and will create a clearer outline.

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STRAIGHT DOUBLE
Here we are kind of shooting the “same” thing twice with a slight change of framing, pose to get an interesting portrait. We love choosing this style for photos where you wish to see more of the person(s) and we find them particularly adapted in a more editorial context.

We also love doing it to create a sense of storytelling through placing a moment in a context of time. We tell a story through two frames overlaying each other of a particular moment in time. I find it works particularly well when you photograph “the model and the photographer”.

The technique here is much the same when it comes to “underexposing” and overlaying, taking into consideration where your darker spots will be. This is a lot more guess-work but we tend to think about how we are framing the first picture and where we position the model and try and have this image stuck in my mind as we frame the second to imagine where things will overlay.

TIP: We find so far that an “easy” way to do this would be to have a similar composition but just walked forward or backwards to have a wider or tighter image of the “same” thing – or going in for more of a detail shot.

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SCAPE & SPACE
We think this is the hardest one to achieve because shooting to overlay a wide space/environment is a lot more difficult in terms of good result (generally with exposure). But when it works: it’s incredible.

Let’s be honest, we don’t have as much of a process here for guaranteed results so we can only tell you to TRY!… The ones that have worked the most for us are using darker outlines from people then overlaying the space to appear within their outline.

Our personal experience tells us that overcast and/or darker environment work better or we should have under- exposed even more on the first shot. In truth, a beach in bright daylight will have very little “dark” areas so the result will always be a bit uncertain.

TIP: Always shoot your darker photo first because you want to keep as much information as possible to lay a picture over. It’s not just a case of underexposing, it is also a case of keeping as much “lightly exposed” areas so you have expose over it again.

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SUMMARY

1.Switch the camera to double exposure if it has the option and remember to switch the button off be- fore you take your last shot
2.Shoot darker than you normally would (1 to 2 stops depending on the light on the day) for both shots.
3.Shoot your darker image first to keep as much information for the overlay image
4.When shooting people, darker clothing is a good option
5. Try to keep a mental image of your first shot when you compose your second

For the “outline”
1. Shoot your main subject against a white/bright background. A sky is often a good option.
2. A profile shot work well as it has a stronger shape
3. Remember to compose your bright/dark areas on the same part of the shot for each frame you shoot 4/ Use your environment for your pattern (flowers, trees, buildings)

For the “two of the same”
1. Shoot closer then wider works well.
2. or shoot a detail shot at your second shoot

For the “space”
1. Stop down more in brighter situations
2. Works well on overcast days or at sun down, especially by the beach
3. Use your environment (tree cover, darker mountains,…) to create a darker surroundings

But the best way to learn is to try, make mistake AND HAVE FUN.

All images and texts in this post are full copyright to Bubblerock.  Please do not share with out crediting them for their hard work and time putting this wonderful educational piece together.

  1. steph // we are bubblerock

    October 8th, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I have seen so many pop around lately. It’s really becoming quite something. Love love love double exposures and really want to see more!… exciting! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. SammieB

    October 9th, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    A fellow photographer friend taught me this technique (with digital) about a year ago. It’s so lovely! I eventually created my own little technique mixing two individual exposures together in photoshop and playing with masks and opacities, which got me the effect that I wanted, but looking at these now, I realize I’m missing out on something. These images are super special. Just another thing to add to my “want to learn” bucket!

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