How to do Multiple Exposure Photography
To find out how to do multiple exposure photography, we will first go back in time in the article, because multiple exposure appears in the early history of photography, and is used in the modern age, where new ways of its implementation continue to be discovered with the advancement of technology. It is based on the repeated exposure of the same part of the plate or film to light, which instead of two or more photos, is obtained with the elements of all the photos taken on that part of the film.
When asked if there is another way how to do multiple exposure photography? Well, today, in addition to several methods in analog photography, it can also be achieved digitally, using digital devices or post-processing in photo processing programs (e.g. Adobe Photoshop).
Multiple exposures is a photographic technique of multiple exposures of photographic material (film, sensor or paper) to light, which can be used properly to produce creative effects that do not reflect the real world.
Photography as an invention was seen as the first completely objective visual medium. It was considered that, unlike all painting techniques, photographs cannot be manipulated. Like most other early “unreal” photographic phenomena (e.g. solarization), its discovery was accidental, aided by long exposures or the error of subsequent exposure of the photographic layer to light, and scientists of the time were opposed to using any non-objective techniques.
This might seem like an overreaction if the concept of ghosting hadn’t appeared in public along with multiple exposures, where people didn’t understand how the faded transparent figures that sometimes appear in a photograph could be anything but real ghosts, whose existence (according to the thinking of the time) photography as an objective medium of evidence.
Ghosting was used by many photographers as a morally questionable way to make money from photography, taking family portraits and adding “ghosts of deceased family members” (which were real people, usually dressed in white, who moved enough during the subsequent exposure so that their faces did not have been recognized), which is probably where the later aesthetic of ghosts in the mass media as semi-transparent human figures covered with a white sheet comes from. Probably the most significant period for ghosting was 2. World War and the post-war era, where it was easy to find mourners who wanted to say goodbye to someone.
To explain ghosting, the context of time is very important: although the belief that faded figures in photographs are ghosts may seem naive to us, today it is easier to find information that would explain the phenomenon than it was for people in the 19th century. Even today, most people probably can’t explain the technical cause of ghosting unless they are into photography themselves.
It is interesting to note that, although the history of multiple exposures is thought to be due to the appearance of ghosting, in early photography the error was mostly caused by only exposing the photosensitive layer once, using long exposures, if another person appeared in the frame for just a few seconds, or the person being filmed has moved far enough to make it look like another person is in that location.
So, in a way, this technique was initially more similar to light painting, but in daylight and with much longer exposures, and therefore with a less extreme difference in brightness. The real multiple exposure, i.e. the way of intentionally causing the effect of the subsequent addition of elements, could only be thought about later.
How to do Multiple Exposure Photography with an Analog Camera
Although the film is not the earliest photographic medium to use multiple exposures, it is possible to reproduce earlier effects as well as new ways of using it, so this segment will focus on two types of film, negative and slide, to show the full possibilities of analog photography. The different build of analog cameras means that the way to use multiple exposures differs depending on the model.
The simplest way is provided by models that do not require the film to be wound after exposure: while most SLRs prevent accidental re-trigger errors by locking the shutter until the film is wound for the next exposure, cheaper models (low-end Lomographic or Soviet cameras) they don’t, so it is possible to intentionally or accidentally tear off an unlimited number of photos on the same part of the film.
On cameras with automatic film winding, it is possible to stop automatic winding to perform multiple exposures and restart it later.
If the camera does not provide a simple possibility of making multiple exposures, it is necessary to tear off all the photos on the film, return it to the beginning and at the same time make sure that it does not rewind to the end so that it can be put in the camera again, and the entire film is shot from the beginning.
Although when using this method it is almost impossible to remember the composition of each image, it is at least possible to write down what is in which image, and if we want to leave one of the images in its original version without exposing it again, this can be done by pressing the shutter button while the lens is covered by a lens cap, which will not let light through.
How to do Multiple Exposure Photography with a Digital Camera
Although multiple exposure is a relatively simple and natural function that can be achieved on any photographic medium, most digital cameras still do not have this capability. The reason is most likely that one of the main advantages of digital photography is that it is not necessary to waste time on winding the film, but the image is saved and the next one can be taken immediately.
The speed of successive shots is very important, so the multiple exposure function, which instead of shooting the next image continues to process the current one, is not intuitive for such systems.
However, some cameras provide this option, to reduce the time that the user would otherwise have to spend creating the effect of multiple exposures in processing programs.
Digital cameras can perform multiple exposures in a way more similar to a processing program (so that photos that are already in the camera’s memory are selected and the method of combining them is chosen, and depending on the camera, new effects can be obtained in addition to multiple exposure and sandwich photos ) or in a way more similar to multiple exposures on analog cameras, where the user chooses to shoot multiple exposures, takes the first picture and immediately after it takes the next picture, which the camera then combines.
The advantage of performing multiple exposures on a digital camera is that the effect is immediately visible: in the second method, where two consecutive images are taken, the first image is partially visible on the LCD screen, so that the photographer can more easily compose the final photo.
Of course, today, mobile phones are also used for photography, which provides a wide variety of applications for photo editing or different effects, including multiple exposures or other similar ways of combining photos.
How to do Multiple Exposure Photography in a Photo Editing Program
Although there are more and more photo editing programs on different platforms today, we will focus on Adobe Photoshop as one of the earliest, as well as the leading photo editing program, with the most photo editing options that resemble multiple exposures.
Adobe Photoshop (and all programs that follow its development) obtains the greatest possibilities for image and photo processing by using layers that can be used to add details to an image without changing the original, as a mask to hide one part of an image so that it can be seen on that part some other, or so that the settings on one part of the image would not be visible on another, or in different ways to combine the appearance of images on different layers.
Well-known layer options are the screen and multiply options for simulating multiple exposure and sandwich photography, because the algorithms of these options correspond to the additive system by which multiple exposure works by adding light to the image, and the subtractive system by which sandwich photography works by subtracting light (slide film) or by double of the negative process of making a photograph (with negatives).
Sandwich photo is a term that denotes the combination of several negatives on the same photo paper, and it gets its name from combining several slide transparent (positive) films as a sandwich and showing them together. In the case of negative films, two negatives can also be combined and the photographic paper exposed together, or they can be exposed one after the other. Although it is still a multiple exposures because elements of different scenes are exposed together, it now takes place in a second phase, and due to the negative process, the effect of a sandwich photo can be the opposite of the effect of a multiple exposure of a film.
In addition, many other layer options can be used to achieve effects that were previously impossible to achieve and that can be further combined and experimented with for an unlimited number of possible results.
In addition to all the options it offers in terms of the appearance of the photo, the main advantage of Adobe Photoshop and computer programs for photo processing is the greatest control over the composition and the repeatability of the results, which makes such programs excellent for beginners. Some of the most common ways to use the multiple exposure options of such programs are to remove the background from a silhouette image, limit the gamut of a photo, or use the same image rotated 180° for a mirror effect.
While all of these methods are useful in analog photography, most require hours of experimentation and retries to get the desired effect, while any of them can be done in minutes in a digital processing program.
The possibilities of different media for performing multiple exposures continue to increase. Each of the techniques has its advantages, charm and supporters who continue to use it. The creative and artistic possibilities are also endless and, as with any other technique, one should experiment until one finds one’s style.
Multiple exposures are almost impossible to imitate with other techniques, and by combining different motifs, ways of performing multiple exposures and the type of layer in processing programs, we create countless inspiring ideas. Multiple exposures add a new dimension to photography, which instead of “writing with light” becomes playing with it.