The double exposure is a creative technique that will allow you to develop your conceptual ability and abstraction when taking pictures. Perhaps it is one of the techniques that requires the most imagination, since you will have to think about the result of mixing two different photographs and this totally changes the rules of the game.
The sensations that these photographs convey are unique, for their ability to metaphorize messages in themselves, that is why I have always believed that double exposures are the closest thing to poetry in the visual field.
The phrase “double exposure” can be a bit intimidating for those just starting out, but only because they don’t really know the technique. I promise you that after this tutorial to make a double exposure in Photoshop you will understand it and you will be willing to start practicing them.
First of all, I want to clarify that the term “exposure” in photography refers to the correct way to make the right amount of light shine on the sensor of our cameras. In this case, it refers to the number of photos or shots we take on the same image , that is, mixing 2 different images or more in a single photograph.
In principle, with analog SLR cameras and with the use of photographic film, what was done was to block a button on the camera that allowed the shooting system to be loaded without the negative being shot. This created a double image effect on that negative, covering the entire image and requiring a correct exposure of each image so that a good result could be obtained.
Currently some digital cameras have this option available, making double exposure much easier, since we can preview the result before taking the second photo . All this added to the appearance of photographic editing software such as Photoshop, its possibilities expanded and developed, allowing much more amazing results to be achieved.
Now we can select the areas of the image that will be part of the double exposure and this control has perfected the technique to superlative levels.
What can we do with double exposure?
Anything and more, surely you will be the first surprised when you see the results of your first “double exposures”: ghostly images, superimposed textures or impossible reflections, these are just some possibilities that this technique will offer you.
It is best that you think about the message you want to convey before starting and look for the elements that best represent that idea.
How do we do a “double exposure”?
There are several ways to do it, depending on the camera you have, if you have an analog film SLR, you should make sure that your camera has the negative blocker that we talked about before, this will allow you to shoot a second time on the same negative, when load the trigger system without running the film to the next negative. It is important to know that not all cameras had this system ( an example of a camera model that did have this system is the Nikon FM2 ).
In the case of digital cameras, there is the possibility that the camera has this option within its menu , so you would only have to find the option and enable it. The camera will basically do the same as the analog, allow you to shoot twice on the same image , resulting in the combination of both photos (some examples of models that have this feature are the Nikon D3100, D5100 and D7000).
Tips for your first photo overlays
“Double exposure” photography is perfect for experimentation, so as not to take into account the rules, it is right there where it keeps its essence and main value. However, to make the process effective, you have to take into account some basic aspects that will make you get good results in your first tests.
Here are some basic tips to get you off to a good start:
You must take a first photograph where there is a main object , that is, a person, an animal, a sculpture, a building, etc., that has a predominant presence in the composition. The case of people or animals is special and usually gives good results when combined with textures or details of nature. That combination of life and potential movement or the static environment always makes an immediate visual impact. You can also play with the perspective or position of 2 objects or similar shapes that overlap each other. The important thing is that there is a protagonist to merge in the image as a basic principle.
That character should be a little underexposed , dark, if possible against the light; a silhouette or almost, is the best to obtain good results. The fact that it is dark makes it much easier to define the shapes and colors of the image it will blend with.
The second image must be well exposed, with the appropriate amount of light to be able to see all its details clearly, in fact, it is important that the whites or highlights of this image are well defined, to help obtain an adequate contrast when we mix the pictures.
It is important that there is no excess of information, elements or colors in any of the images. This will make the fusion process easier. If any of the images have many overlapping elements or many different colors, it will make merging the photos much more difficult, if the image has a uniform pattern or texture, it will be easier to achieve the double exposure.
Finally, the orientation of the photographs does not have to be the same, one can be horizontal and the other vertically, remember that with this technique you can let your imagination fly, this will be the key, your personal touch …
How to do a double exposure in Photoshop
The second possibility, and the one that most photographers usually do, is to get double exposure through Photoshop or any other photo editing program that allows working with layers or has a specific option to join two photos in one.
For this you will have to take several photos, the one that will be the main layer (for example a person) and the one that will be the fill or secondary layer (for example a forest) then they are merged in the software. In this obviously much more controlled process, more precise, detailed and therefore more impressive results can be obtained.
Now we go with the step by step in Photoshop to get the images merged easily:
Select the images you will use (in my case there was a color image and a black and white image, I was clear that the final photo I wanted in grayscale, so before starting the process I converted my second image to grayscale and I gave it the desired characteristics to blend it smoothly).
Cut them out using the quick selection tool , select the areas of each image that will be used for the composition. It is important that the cuts are accurate and that they retain details so that the result is the best possible. If you are not very skilled using Photoshop, I recommend that the background of your image be white or of a uniform color, to make it easier to select your character.
Place the main image layer and underneath create another layer to color it white with the paint pot tool.
With the outline of the image selected, create a layer mask and apply the “Lighten” blending mode to it. This will allow us to see more precisely the fusion we will make with the images. Details that you want to keep will surely be lost, but don’t worry, we will recover them later by deselecting them.
Now place the cutout of the second image between the main photo and the white background. Create a white layer mask and select the main image again by holding down Ctrl or CMD. Click inside the image, as you can see the selection has been activated again, now in the selection menu select the “Invert” option.
Go back to the lower layer and using the eraser tool, delete all that is left over from this image, that is, all the elements that you do not want to be part of the final composition. Not necessarily everything that is outside the selection must be eliminated, that will depend on the final result you want to obtain.
Again go to the top layer or main image and duplicate it, this is done by pressing “Ctrl + J” on PC or “Cmd + J” on Mac.
Change the blending mode to the new layer to “Normal” , now this is the top layer of our document and as you can see it recovered all the presence on the image. Delete the layer mask that you brought inherited from the copy, and make a new one. Fill it with black and with the white brush go painting in the areas that you want to recover the information from the lower layers.
Now dock all the layers by pressing “Ctrl + E” or “Cmd + E” and you can give the last touches to your image, in this case a small correction was made in the “Curves” and in the general “Brightness”, In addition, the small beam of light in warm colors was added, which completes the creation.
Mobile applications to make a double exposure
If you do not have a camera that has the option of double exposure in the menu or you do not handle photoshop at the necessary level to merge 2 images, then do them with your mobile, there are many applications for both Android and iOS, which allow you to make a double exposure in a simple way. Give it a try, surely at least you will have a lot of fun creating these images and you will discover a new dimension of photography.
- For Android you can use Pixlr
- On iOS it is also available here