Multiple Exposures for Beginners


To start, you will need a camera which can do multiple exposures, here are just a few examples which I recommend for beginner Lomographers:

This is a relatively small list of personal recommendations. There are many other cameras and films fit for the job, but the alternatives may be more costly or difficult for beginners. For example, doubles exposures taken with slide film that is then cross-processed can be amazing, but it is expensive and sometimes difficult finding a place that does cross-processing. Be sure to read the guide for your camera to ensure you understand how your camera works.

What is a double/multiple exposures?

To explain this, I will first describe what an exposure is in the first place. When you take a photograph, you are exposing the film to light, which captures an image by basically making a chemical recording of that light.

Film can only be exposed to light so much before the chemicals cannot record anymore. If you were to take a picture on a sunny day with a long exposure (the B setting on most cameras, where “B” stands for “bulb”), then you will get either a very faint, washed out image or an entirely white image. Here is an example of when I accidentally had my Diana Mini (set to half-frame mode, so there are two pictures separated by the black line) on bulb mode on a sunny day:

As you can see, the image is completely washed out. The long exposure exposed the film to far too much light. Though sometimes it may accidentally turn out interesting, this is most likely what you do not want to aim for.

With multiple exposures, you expose the film to light more than once. You do so by clicking the shutter, not winding the camera so you will not advance the film, and clicking the shutter once again. The parts of the film that were least exposed during the first click of the shutter will be most capable of capturing light during the second click.

Here are two shots I took with my Diana Mini in half-frame mode, where the right features double exposure:

The Importance of Avoiding Overexposure

Imagine we took a picture of a large white wall with a big black square in it and then took a second exposure of a red wall. The black square will take on a red hue, while the white of the wall will appear pink or possibly still white, depending on film sensitivity and the amount of light. Now imagine the same scenario with a flash used for both exposures. We would most likely wash out the first image entirely with the second exposure due to overexposure.

It’s not hard for even beginner photographers to see the key to successful multiple exposures is controlling how much light you need. To avoid overexposure, you want to aim to take multiple underexposed shots. Otherwise, one of your exposures can essentially erase the other, like so:

Attaining the Proper Underexposure

Say you want to take a double exposure of something indoors and you realize you need a flash. If your flash can be adjusted, then you may want to take your two pictures with the flash adjusted to half of what it would be for a normal, single exposure. The more exposures you want to take, the less light you will want for each exposure. If your flash cannot be adjusted, you can accomplish this by moving a bit further away from your subject(s) so less light reaches them.

If you are outdoors, you are most likely not going to change the lighting by taking a step back from your subject(s). Thus, the key is choosing subjects carefully and just paying attention to the lighting that is all around you. The sky, depending on the time of day and the weather, can be very bright and may wash out parts of a picture. Therefore, if you took a picture of a building and then an overcast sky, you will probably just barely see the building, if at all. However, maybe that is what you are aiming for, as I was here:

Other times, however, the sky hasn’t created overexposure problems for me, so it is always worth trying:

Of course, if your camera is capable of it, you can change the exposure index to help out attaining the appropriate exposure. I have not done much with this, so I recommend researching pushing and pulling film to learn about this.

Things to Look Out For

Be careful to not underexpose too much! If there really is not enough light, then you could have such a faint exposure that it doesn’t show up even if the other exposure is not too bright:

Also, I would be weary of rotating your camera 90 degrees between exposures. I have seen people do it in a way that works, but I have not been able to get it right even once. Sometimes I have done it accidentally. It may be worth trying to see if you can do it well, but I’ve always regretted trying it:

Also, after all my warnings about overexposure, I do not want you to be afraid of using your flash. It is best not to over think and just go for it sometimes, so my last warning is to ignore all I have said so far if it feels right. My favorite double exposure resulted from using a flash for both exposures when it was completely unnecessarily to add extra light:

Which Film is Best For Multiple Exposures?

Logic would dictate that the film with lower speeds -- which captures less light with each exposure -- would be best, but anything can happen in Lomography. I did not list 800 ISO films earlier because I have found that I don’t like the way it handles multiple exposures, but individual shots have turned out great. This may be an unfair exclusion considering I did list Kodak BW400CN, which has been hit or miss with me for multiple exposures.

Anyway, rather than describe the benefits of each film, I found what I consider to be my best shots of each film speed.

100 ISO

200 ISO

400 ISO

800 ISO

Some Ideas

The possibilities are endless with multiple exposures, but here are just a few ideas:

  • Take a close picture of an object, then take another exposure of the same object slightly further away. You can also experiment with making one of the exposures more or less focused than the other.
  • Photograph something at a distance such as a mountain or a building; flip the camera upside-down and take a second exposure of the same exact scene.
  • Using a flash at night and preferably outdoors, take a picture of a friend on the left, then take a second exposure of the same friend on the right side. If you have a color flash, use two different colors for each exposure.
  • Place your camera on a tripod (and possibly even use a cable release). Take a picture of a friend posing somewhere. Then have your friend pose elsewhere in the frame for the second exposure. They’ll hopefully look a bit ghost-like; the trick is just to make sure the background is exactly the same for both exposures.
  • Take two pictures of the same thing from a slightly different angle. For example, take a picture of a building from across the street, then walk thirty feet down the sidewalk and take another exposure of the same building.

Closing Thoughts

These were only suggestions which I can only hope will work for you, but everything depends on context and you may find that my advice could be completely wrong in some situations. You’ll only discover what works once you start experimenting for yourself. Keep in mind that you cannot go wrong, especially if you have fun in the process!

Want to try multiple exposures? The easiest way is to use a camera with an "MX" mode, like the Lomo LC-A+ family. Most Lomography cameras have this feature, so visit our online shop or any of our worldwide gallery stores to see our selection!

written by carmenism on 2011-02-10 #gear #tutorials #art #35mm #tutorial #exposure #multiple-exposure #tipster #easy #doubles #double-exposure #holga-135 #multiples #diana-mini #holga-135-bc #beginners #basic #lc-a-top-tipster #top-lc-a-tipster #top-tipster-techniques

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  1. kamiraze
    kamiraze ·

    Very nice, elaborate tipster! Good job

  2. badjuju
    badjuju ·

    Thanks for the tips!

  3. novakmisi
    novakmisi ·

    well done !!!!!

  4. awesomesther
    awesomesther ·

    loving all the details you put in this tipster! :)

  5. willyboy
    willyboy ·

    Great ideas at the end there, I'm gonna give these a whirl.

  6. keeklo
    keeklo ·

    Now, that's a very thorough tipster! I like!!

  7. amor44
    amor44 ·

    Great ideas section at the end!

  8. mimifleuri
    mimifleuri ·

    Thanks for the tipster. Can't wait to start multiple exposing!

  9. carmenism
    carmenism ·

    Wow, thank you for all the nice comments and likes! I really appreciate it. :) Glad you enjoyed my article.

  10. gitarre
    gitarre ·

    nice tipsters!

  11. dfektion
    dfektion ·

    thanks for the tips, loves it!!

  12. pomps
    pomps ·

    love the photos love the tips!

  13. robotmonkey1996
    robotmonkey1996 ·


  14. tammyislove
    tammyislove ·

    thank you so much! i do believe i probably overexposed my first roll of film. ill see when i develop them. this tipster REALLY helps! cant wait to try with my redscale xr film. :]

  15. avocado-in-a-world-of-cucumbers
    avocado-in-a-world-of-cucumbers ·

    This was super helpful - thank you! *grabs camera and starts shooting*

  16. carmenism
    carmenism ·

    @tammyislove, I hope your first roll turned out alright! I am sure it did. :) I cannot wait to try Redscale XR either!

  17. jbradley12
    jbradley12 ·

    Thanks for the tipsters! I'm starting out and learning a lot by trial and error. Now I'm heading out for some more trial and hopefully less errors.

  18. speezberry
    speezberry ·

    Hallelujah Thank the Stars!!

  19. wilarbadson
    wilarbadson ·

    Thanks a lot!! :) After this I hope that I will become more good at multiple exposure technique.

  20. lafoto
    lafoto ·

    Very useful, thanks a lot! :D

  21. checkmybadself
    checkmybadself ·

    Love it!

  22. edwardolive
    edwardolive ·

    Maybe xpro needs to be underexposed 1 stop because its pretty sensitive for double exposures

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