Double exposure

I love the double exposure effect - the ghostly layering of images over each other to produce surreal, twin compositions. The beauty of this technique lies in the unpredictable and the unexpected, in not always knowing which images will align over each other, and how they will look. It's a very easy technique to carry out as well, it just requires a little practice and planning to achieve the best results.

Photo by @_davidsark

Shooting double exposure means shooting a roll of film, then putting it back through your camera to shoot again, layering the two exposures over each other so you can see both at once. Sometimes you can rewind the film and catch the end of the roll before it disappears inside the canister, but if not, you can use another roll of film to pull it back out again - there are loads of tutorials showing you how to do this online.



Some people suggest that when shooting double exposure it's best to underexpose by a stop. This balances out the effects of the film being exposed to the light twice. However, others argue that this creates murky shadows, and in fact it's better to just shoot the film normally. Black and white film especially can hold up to overexposure well, so should work fine shot as normal. However you decide to meter the film, its one of those things that's just better to try out and experiment yourself, to see what works best with the film stock you're using, and gives the effect you are after.

Photo by @lasoifdujour

Which image goes first in double exposures?

Shooting randomly, you might get lucky here and there, but if you want to create a really effective double exposure you need to think about the order you take the images. Keep in mind - anything that is white or bright will destroy information and anything black/dark will maintain information for the next exposure. The first image you take is going to fill into the shadows of the second image.

I find it helps to think of it as whatever you want to come through the most, should be shot second. It works best to first shoot an entire roll of texture or background / secondary images - nature, city details, cracks. Then you can reload and shoot portraits or whatever your subject is.

Photo by @newearthartist

Take notes whilst you are shooting - keep a rough outline of which shot was what so you can line up images that you think would look great layered over each other. Of course, you can also leave it up to chance, and see what effects you create by accident!

It might take a few rolls to master this technique but once you have an understanding of how double exposure works, and the ways to strike a balance between two images, you can capture some unique and special results.


Photo by @nan_curtis

Things to try 

Hold the camera upside down for a reflection type effect or swap cameras with your friends, with you each shooting a roll of textures before exchanging cameras or rolls and shooting the second round of images on unknown backgrounds.

If you like the imagery and want some more inspiration, check out doubleexposuremagazine on Instagram!


Cover Image by @edwllcxn

Author: Becca Knight 

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