What is a double exposure?

Well, the definition is quite simple actually. We understand exposure as an image created by exposing the sensor of our camera to the light, once. So, what is double exposure then? When we combine two images into a single one. As easy as that.

The tricky part comes when we want to create a double exposure picture. How can we do that? Is it easy?

I am going to explain the two ways of making our own double exposure and I will focus on creating it in Photoshop.

Types of double exposure

1. On camera

This is how it was done on the good old times. Nowadays, some cameras might have a Multiple exposure mode on the shooting menu. This will allow to take multiple exposures and will automatically combine them in one final picture.

You can choose how many shots want to combine in the final frame. Depending on your camera, you’ll be able to keep the single shots or on the other hand your camera will blend them and you’ll only keep the final picture.

This will be a really cool option as it’ll be fast to create double exposures like that. You just choose two subjects (or more), shoot, and the camera will do everything for you.

What’s the problem with this? The control you’ll have over the exposures is really limited, as you won’t be able to see a preview of the final result.

For example, I shot this double exposure on camera using this multiple exposure shot mode. I kinda like it, but is surely not spectacular. It may work better when shooting the same model, or object, in different possitions in the same frame.

2. On post

When we talk about creating a double exposure image in post, we mean that we are taking the shots we need to create the picture we have in mind. We shoot one picture, and then the one that’s going to complement it, and we’ll blend them on Photoshop or mobile apps. This way takes more work, but has an important advantage as you can see while you work what you’re doing and how the picture is looking.

How do we create our image then? Lets go through it step by step.

Steps to create a double exposure image in Photoshop

1. Open both pictures on Photoshop in the same document. We open Photoshop and then we go to File>Scripts>Load files into stack. A new window will open and we’ll select the files we want to use.

2. We clean up the background of our main picture. In this case, I am using a picture by Elijah Hiett taken from Unsplash. I am using the magic wand to erase the background and leave it white. Then we select the subject and create a mask with it. Remember that when we’re using this masks, whatever we paint on black will disapear from the final image and in white will appear.

3. We open the image we’re going to use on the double exposure as “substitute”. Once we are working on that layer, we apply the selected mask from the previous layer by clicking on it and pressing Alt while moving it to the top layer. In my case, this layer is a picture by Jay Mantri also taken from Unsplash. As you can see you can have the selection of the profile over the trees. Before going to the next step, remember to unlink the mask and this new layer so we can play around with the picture without affecting the mask.

4. We duplicate the first layer and make an Adjustment layers mask, so we darken the picture by moving the bars. Once we’ve darken it a bit, we change the blending mode to Screen. In my case, I also used a black and white layer to play around the colors a bit.

5. Last step are final retouches. We will check again on the Levels, see if we have to paint some edges with the same color as the background, maybe mask and erase parts of the picture that are not interesting. And if you want to get a little creative, you can add some color with a gradient as a final artistic touch, or instead of using black and white, change the colors to something bizarre!

This is all I can tell you about double exposure, also I know there are tons of apps where you can play around this concept and have awesome results! I will definetely keep on working this skill and I will like to know your opinion on the matter! Have you tried? Do you like it? Do you think there is lots of pain for so lil gain? Let me know on the comments below!

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