Easy Double Exposure Photography Tips for Beginners

Double exposure photography is a very intriguing technique which combines two exposures into a single image. This method is proven to provide more appeal and is always used in many commercial means of photography. With the advent of digital photography, achieving double exposures has become easier than ever before. Most cameras now have built in features that allow photographers to set the double and even multiple exposures setting with just one turn of a camera setting knob. Check (Understanding Camera Exposure).

Here are some tips on how to produce come up with a stunning combination of images that will result into very interesting double exposure photographs. First you need to understand the concept of positive and negative values of photography, the black and white. Check (Stunningly Artistic Double Exposure Photography).

In photography, White signifies a burned out data. Once you burn out this part of the image, it is gone forever and you cannot overlap any image on it again. Black represents an exposure which didn’t take place at all; this is perfect for overlapping the second exposure. The black parts are considered the unexposed (virgin) part and the following exposure will fill those parts with an element. Experiment with taking multiple images that has both black and white on the extreme ends and other color values in between.

Try these simple steps to acclimatize yourself with the basics of double exposure photography:


Photo by Dan Mountford
Photo by Dan Mountford

Take a ‘selfie’ with a black background while holding your camera at an arm’s length. You will easily get a normal portrait of yourself with a very bland black background; this however creates an opportunity for the black part to be filled up with another image. Take a second image (this is after you set your camera in its multi-exposure mode), preferably a colourful subject with a white or bright background. In a simple experiment I took another shot of a plant sitting on my apartment window with the city skyscrapers as the background on a clear day. I underexposed the plant by 2 stops to have my face become more visible in the black or underexposed area. The end result was an interesting double exposure showing my face surrounded by parts of the plants while the city building and sky serving as the background. You can further modify this and improve the combination of the two images by tweaking it in a photo editing software by adding contrast, reducing saturation, filling a shadow and sharpening the image.

For exposure settings; there are two methods to remember when doing double exposure photography.


Multiple double exposure
Multiple double exposure

Method 1:

For example you will photograph a tree and a person as your double exposure subjects, if your camera automatically suggests a setting of 1/60 at f.8 for both subjects, the exposure for the tree should be at half of the entire exposure. Therefore to include half of the tree, you should set your exposure at 1/125 then take a picture of the person with the same setting. This setting lets both images at half of its light, which will blend together perfectly. Experiment with different setting but do not follow the camera prescribed setting for single exposure images.

Method 2:

There are other ways to tinker with exposure. One of the coolest ways is by altering the ISO setting. If your camera is set at ISO 100, at ISO 100 you can expose 1 frame properly. But at ISO 200 you can achieve 2 frames perfectly since each image will get half the suggested exposure! At ISO 300 you can expose 3 frames correctly and so on.

There it goes, I hope after reading this article you can now start capturing engaging double exposure photographs.

Next photography lessons:

Photography Intermediate 1: Understanding Camera Metering

Photography Intermediate 2: Photography Tips: How To Choose A Tripod

Photography Intermediate 3: Beginners’ Emotional Photography

Photography Intermediate 5: Create a Sense of Depth to Your Shot

Photography Intermediate 6: Maximize the Background in your Composition

About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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