I'll show you some examples of multiple-exposure pictures with detailed descriptions of the cameras, film, and techniques I used to achieve them.
I could get very scientific when talking about multiple-exposures, but I think it might help to just show you lots of examples of shots that “worked” and explain what I did to achieve them.
First, I’ll give you just a bit of technical background, but not too much. I promise. Multiple-exposure just means that you expose the same bit of film to light multiple times. Most of the multiple-exposure pictures you see are double-exposures, but there’s nothing stopping you from doing triple-, quadruple-, or even higher multiple-exposures. Most of the multiple-exposures you see involve some camera movement or a movement of the subject in the frame so that you end up with the classic ghostly images, but you can also use multiple-exposures without moving anything in the picture to solve exposure problems. I’ll give some examples of that too. Finally, most of the multiple-exposure images you see involve no movement of the film so that the entire frame is re-exposed, but sometimes it’s useful to move the film a bit so that you end up with a partial double-exposure where the frames overlap. I’ll show you some examples of that too.
There are some basic guidelines you want to consider when you’re doing multiple-exposures. If you have control over the exposure of the film – film speed, shutter speed, aperture, you may want to compensate by underexposing your shots depending on the number of exposures you’ll be doing. If you’ll be doing a double-exposure, each individual exposure should be underexposed by one full stop. That means that each individual exposure should get half as much light so that when you add them up the total exposure will be correct. You can go crazy doing these calculations and they don’t even work the same way when you’re doing multiple-exposures with a flash, so my recommendation is don’t even mess with it. Don’t worry about compensating. You can’t even do it properly with lots of point and shoot cameras anyway, so don’t even worry about it.
Let’s just get into some examples and I’ll talk a bit about them. First, let me show you a boring example.
What? I thought we were talking about multiple-exposures. This is a multiple exposure. I shot this with a Diana MINI using expired Fuji Press 800 film. The sun was already below the horizon and I didn’t have a very powerful flash. I had the MINI on a tripod and I used a shutter release cable. I knew that the shot would be underexposed because I was in the shadow of a large hill and the sky was starting to get dark. On “N”, the MINI has a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. which would be too fast for this shot. On “B”, the shutter will stay open for as long as I hold down the button. That’s good, but it’s still kind of hard to control the speed. If you set the shutter on “B” and operate the switch as fast as you possibly can, you will get a shutter speed of about 1/15 sec. That’s good, but I was thinking I wanted something a bit slower than that. So, I set the aperture to “Cloudy” and the shutter to “B” and shot as fast as I possibly could twice. If you do a multiple exposure, it just adds the total amount of time. This gives you some additions shutter speeds:
- Operate the shutter on “N” – 1/60 sec.
- Operate the shutter twice on “N” – 1/30 sec. (1/60 + 1/60 = 1/30)
- Operate the shutter as fast as you can on “B” – about 1/15 sec.
- Operate the shutter as fast as you can twice on “B” – about 1/7 sec.
So, you can use multiple-exposures along with the “B” setting to get additional shutter speeds even if your camera doesn’t have them. This works with cameras like the Diana, the Holga, the Sprocket Rocket, etc.
Here are some partial multiple exposures:
These partial multiple-exposures are called endless panoramas. You do them by taking a picture then advancing the film, but not all the way to the next frame, then panning the camera so that the next shot overlaps the first. Your camera needs to be able to reset the shutter even if you haven’t advanced the film all the way to the next frame. The areas that overlap are multiple-exposures, so these are partial multiple-exposures. I used a Diana MINI to do all of these, but this trick will work with the standard Diana+, the Holga series of 120s and 35mm, the Sprocket Rocket, etc.
Here’s another type of partial multiple exposure:
For this shot, I took one picture, wound to the next frame, but not all the way, took a second picture, wound to the next frame, but not all the way and took another picture. The part in the middle is a multiple exposure, but these weren’t intended to look like a stitched panoramic.
Here’s a popular trick for doing multiple exposures that often works well:
For all of the preceding pictures, I shot the first exposure, then turned the camera upside down and shot the second exposure. With nearly all of them, I framed the second picture exactly how I framed the first picture. Can you guess which ones I did with the Lomography Fisheye No. 2 camera?
Here’s a similar trick:
For that image, I took the first shot at a 45 degree angle, the took the second shot at the opposite 45 degree angle. I was planning for the towers to make an X.
Here’s another common multiple-exposure trick that can be done more easily with a zoom lens. If you don’t have a zoom lens, you have to “zoom with your feet”.
For those images, I took the first shot, then moved in (or out) and took the second shot, lining up the subject right in the middle of the first shot. For the shot of the church, I used Lomography Redscale XR film which is good for multiple-exposures because it has such a huge latitude. A large latitude means that you can be off on the exposure by a lot and still get a usable negative. Redscale film loves light, so it makes it a good choice for multiple-exposures.
These are some classic multiple exposures without any special camera or film movements – just one picture on top of another:
For those types of shots, you should consider at least one of the images should be a very high contrast image – something with a simple pattern covering the entire image. That will keep the final image from being too busy. For the hand picture, I shot my hand with the sun directly behind it first. This is called contr-jour photography. (Look it up.) I knew I would end up with a silhouette of my hand and the second image would show through the blackness of my hand more strongly than the blue of the sky.
For the following shot, I used a very simple camera movement. First, I took a picture of the building and remembered where the sky was in the picture. Then, I moved the camera so that the same building ended up where the sky was in the first picture:
You can do multiple exposures with flash pictures as well and they can turn out pretty good. The nice thing about flash photography for multiple exposures is that the stuff not illuminated by the flash is nearly black which means it’s nearly unexposed. If you place the subject in your second shot directly over the dark spots of the first shot, there might be no ghosting at all:
Finally, these shots took a bit of planning. For this first shot, I used a Lomography Fisheye No. 2 camera. I had the internal flash turned on and I had Colorsplash flash mounted on the hot shoe. I set the camera to “B”. I had the subjects look down into the camera which was pointed straight up. I shot the first picture, held down the shutter release, rotated the camera (The shutter was still open.), then release the button. The external flash fired the moment I pressed the shutter release. The internal flash fired when I release the button. That resulted in the “B” mode double flash exposure:
For this next shot, I used a Holga 135 camera two gels from the Colorsplash flash. I can’t remember how I held the gels in place. I might have just held them there with my fingers. I took the first shot, then I held a blue gel over the lens and took the second shot without advancing the film. Then I held a green gel over the lens and took the third shot without advancing the film. That resulted in this multi-color triple exposure:
Well, that’s it boys and girls. I hope I’ve given you some ideas for doing your own multiple-exposures. Let me give you one more bit of advice. They won’t all work. I didn’t post any of the ones that I considered failures, but there are many. There are lots of things that can go wrong: the way things line up, exposure, colors, angles, movement, wrong contrast, and on, and on. The best thing to do is to use these ideas as a starting point and just go for it. Shoot a bunch of “doubles” or “triples” and just plan ahead of time that only 25% or so of them will even be usable, but you won’t get even 25% usable if you don’t shoot any. So, go for it!