Recently I have found myself gravitating towards several different means of expression in photography, including a prevalence of black and white, but most notably being drawn to making multiple exposures.
There are many kinds of multiple exposures, and many ways to approach creating them. Alone, on film, on digital cameras that have multiple exposure settings, or in post-production – either in the darkroom or using Photoshop. I’ve played around with most of these techniques, with the exception of collaborative multiple exposures, which I’d love to try.
In Camera (on film)
I’ve always made multiple exposures on film. Part of the interest and fascination in laying one image over the other is similar to shooting on film itself, in that you don’t know how it will come out until the film is processed. With multiple exposures the element of certitude is reduced that much further, as overlaying one image over the other without being able to see how they’ll combine is fairly imprecise. Still, in spite of the uncertainty, many accomplished photographers are adept at making double and multiple exposures.
Especially since the advent of the Internet and various forums and social media networks it has been a popular activity for group members to collaborate on double/multiple exposures. The first person makes exposures on a clean roll, then rewinds the film and sends the film (and sometimes the film and camera together) to the second person, who then shoots over the first set of images. There are many ways people work together on double/multiple exposures, such as one making portraits and the other shooting textures and patterns, or one shooting flowers or billowy clouds and the other concentrating on urban scenes. The results can be spectacular, and I am looking forward to trying this with a friend soon.
Multiple Exposure Techniques (Film)
Many film cameras made multiple exposures simple with some kind of lever or switch that permitted cocking of the shutter without advancing the film. Others, like Holgas, make multiple exposures even easier, as the shutter can be depressed an infinite number of times without advancing the film. It was using Holga cameras, both the 135BC and the various 120 variants (of which I have, um, quite a few), that really got me interested in making double/multiple exposures.
One technique that Holgas make easy is pointing the camera at a subject and rapidly making many exposures in a short burst. By hand holding the camera while pressing the shutter numerous times in a row, camera shake results in a kind of micro variation of composition, which can look like fragments positioned around one another. In addition, the same technique can be used with a moving subject, but instead of following the subject so it stays in basically the same position in the frame, one holds the camera in the same position as the subject moves across the frame.
One needn’t keep the camera in the same orientation, either, when making multiple exposures. In fact, one of the best approaches is to make one exposure, then turn the camera 180 degrees or rotate 90 degrees to place the same or different subjects/elements in different places around the frame.
You can also make a few exposures, then have someone else hold the camera to put you in the frame.
Multiple Exposures with Digital Cameras
But you don’t have to shoot film (gasp!) to make multiple exposures. Many digital cameras have a multiple exposure setting buried somewhere in their multiple-level menus. How the function works varies. For instance, on Nikon DSLRs the user can choose how many exposures to lay over one another, whilst on the Fujifilm X100s one can only make a double exposure. However, what’s really great about the X100’s double exposure setting is that after making the first one and confirming it as such, the image is overlaid like a screen over the viewfinder/LCD, allowing the user to line the second image up as desired. After that exposure is made the user has the option to cancel the image and try again until satisfied.
Using Photoshop or other software programs, one can easily layer different images atop one another and choose different blending mode options for widely varied effects. For instance, to add a floral background to a portrait. Although I use this technique often, my purpose is usually not to create images that necessarily look like multiple exposures, but rather to add layered texture to an image.
Going forward I have a few ideas in mind for making more interesting and deliberate double/multiple exposures, including mixing aspect ratios and for combining specific thematic or subject matter on one roll.
Let’s see your multiple exposures! Share this post on Twitter and/or Instagram and tag me: @EtudeImaging, and let’s see what you can come up with.