Shooting Challenge #33 -- Double Exposures

By Martin Snelling on at

In traditional film­-based photography, making a photograph using double or multiple exposures is an alchemic art that requires a lot of patience and practice to master. With today’s new­fangled digital technology it’s a lot easier to create a multiple exposed image, but you’ll need a keen eye to create a truly stunning photograph.

If, like me, you’re a film photographer, you’ll probably know that unless your camera has a specific multiple exposure button or has been hacked, creating a photograph comprised of multiple exposures on the same frame of film is bloody difficult. I’ve tried it a couple of times, both with a camera that has a specific button (my Ricoh 500ME rangefinder) and also by doing a film swap with a Twitter buddy of mine.

The film swap involved deciding who would photograph shapes and who would photograph textures. I then loaded a roll of 35mm film into one of my Olympus Trip 35s and marked it for re­alignment in the second camera. I shot some shapes, rewound the film and sent it off to Tom who then photographed lots of textures and then sent the film back. The results were a bit shit to be honest and we both learnt a lot. I learnt that one should focus on high contrasting shapes and silhouettes and not to photograph any old crap just to fill up a roll of film. It was an expensive, but fun nonetheless experiment and one I will revisit again in the future.

The good news for digital photographers, especially mobile phone snappers, is that creating digital multiple exposures is a lot easier and you don’t have to spend hours hunched over a computer to achieve stunning results.

If your camera doesn’t have a multiple/double exposure mode, you’re going to have to grab your mobile for this challenge as it is solely for in­camera/in­app multiple exposures and not some Photoshop jiggery-pokery. Any entrants submitting post­processed (in Photoshop or equivalent) images will be mocked for not reading the rules.


The Brief

You’ll have probably guessed already but this week’s challenge is to create a double/multiple exposed photograph. You have free ­rein to photograph whatever you so choose; so create something truly stunning and you could win the Shooting Challenge virtual trophy!

Remember, this is a Shooting Challenge, and not a Photoshop Challenge!

If you’re in need of some inspiration, a simple Google search will return a treasure trove of double delights.


The Technique:

To capture a truly great double exposure you need to focus on two elements; the shape and the texture. Get these two parts right, and you could be a winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Before you start scouring the land for textures and shapes to photograph, check that your camera has a double/multi mode; if it doesn’t grab your mobile and use an app. There are plenty of free and low­cost camera apps available; many of which offer a double­exposure mode. My preferred mobile camera android app, Vignette, has a basic x2 mode that requires both images to be taken in succession. If your camera/phone app supports it, you don’t have to shoot both images at the same time, they can be captured at any time during the competition window.

Tip 1: Keep the subject clean and simple; photograph a silhouette, shape or person against a plain background and avoid any background clutter. Some photographers recommend shooting against a plain white background, however, I’ve seen some beautiful images where the subject has been photographed against a black background. The key with most creative photography is experimentation. See what works for best for you.

Tip 2: Once you have captured your subject, the next task is to photograph the ‘fill’ pattern. Look for patterns and textures that compliment the subject or are a juxtaposition such as a nature subject and a man­made texture. Look for a texture that will fit within the subject’s shape or compliment it and again ensure the texture is photographed against a plain background with no clutter.

Tip 3: My final tip is this; don’t forget about composition. Your camera or app may allow you to align up your two photographs prior but if it doesn’t ensure your texture photo sits well against your subject.


The Example:

This week’s lead image was made by Flickr user Brad Hammonds and is a great example of a double exposure done well. Check out his feed for some other double exposure examples.


The Rules:

--Follow the brief
--Submissions must be your own work.
--Submit up to five images
--Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
--Minimal image post­processing is permitted (global changes only)
--Explain briefly in your submission email the equipment, settings, technique used and the story behind the image/images.
--Ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
--Email submissions to
--Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
--Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameDouble.jpg
--Don’t forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
--Send your best photos by Monday, May 19th 2014 at 6pm UK time with “Shooting Challenge ­ Double Exposure” in the subject line.
--Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
--The most important rule — HAVE FUN!

Martin Snelling is a Hampshire-based photomatographer and wearer of fine hats. He tweets hereFlickrs here, and does his website stuff here.