Double exposures can create an alternate perception of reality and truly unique results. You can get amazing doubles simply by chance, but you might increase your chances of getting truly satisfying results if you plan a little bit in advance. I'll leave you with my tips for successfully creating double exposures, just after the jump!
Playing around with double exposures is one of the most creative features of analogue photography – and my personal favorite! I love the way you get unexpected results and create something truly unique from the juxtaposition of two images. I must say that despite the fact that I do look for beauty in randomness, I also try to think of specific ideas and concepts when I do my double exposure pictures. Mastering some small tricks and techniques can lead you to obtain more satisfying results, so it is worth putting a little bit of thought into your doubles.
When you’re shooting doubles you have to take two things into consideration:
1) You should shoot with an ISO value above that of your film.
If you are using a 100 ISO film, you should shoot each of the two exposures at 200 ISO. It is easy to understand why: you are exposing the same frame twice. If you would expose both at 100 ISO you would end up having an overexposed result. Now, this might be something that you are looking for specifically, in which case go for it! But if you have been having overexposed doubles and don’t know why, this might be the reason. On the same note, it is nice to try to do the doubles under the same light conditions. I find that when I shoot one photo on a gloomy day and another on a very sunny day, the latest one tends to overpower the first – even with the correct ISO settings. To end, I always do my doubles with less sensitive films, such as ISO 100 or 200 maximum. This still gives the film some latitude to comport the double exposure.
2) Shoot contrasting images.
You have to think of light and something that “burns” your film. If one of the frames is equally very bright, then this will not give dark areas in which to see through the second image. The best is to do one exposure with very dark vs. bright areas and think that you will be able to see the second exposure in the darkest areas of the first.
Having these two tips in mind, you can go outside and explore the MX function of your camera. The best cameras to do double exposures are those from the LC-A family. I also got very satisfying results with the Diana F+, but you do need a bit more expertise (or luck) to get these right, as you cannot really control your exposure times as accurately.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite tricks/concepts to do doubles. I hope they turn out to be useful for you as well.
This is probably one of the techniques that can produce the most amazing results, and yet is very easy to achieve technically. All you have to have in mind is that you need to expose the first shot while metering the sky. Because the sky is so much brighter than the face of the person, you end up having an underexposed silhouette. This provides you with the black canvas in which you can now expose the second image.
Defy the scale of your images
One of my favorite doubles trick is to defy the scale of the photographic subjects. I love to do doubles of people, buildings, etc, superimposed onto a macro image of a flower for instance. I find this creates a dreamy and a bit surreal result, which I love!
Flowers to the world
I love taking photos of flowers and then shooting a person or a building. It also creates a very interesting effect when your shot of the flowers is a little bit blurry. This way you have these amazing blobs of color over a landscape or a beautiful girl.
I absolutely love Street Art! And I absolutely love doing doubles with an image from graffiti and then shooting over a real image of a person or an animal. Graffiti are always great, because they have very high contrast to them, allowing the second image to shine through.
Defy the perception of reality
Take one shot and then turn your camera upside down to take the second one; shoot some clouds and then your friend or a building; produce a realistic ghost image… the world doesn’t have to be a boring place…
Double your action
I like using doubles to convey the sense of movement or action. Shooting twice the same scene, just a few seconds apart, or from a slightly different angle, can lend a sense of movement to you image and helps telling out your story.
Playing with words
Some people see hidden messages everywhere… I like searching for sentences or words and placing those messages into a background of my own choosing and make my point come across.
Playing with lights
This tip comes a bit along the line of the previous one. Except now I look for neon signs with some sort of word or message and then shoot a second image on top of that. The results can be quite fun. I also like shooting lighted objects to created the same effect.