Double Exposure

A few days ago, I decided to embark on a new little adventure. I’d seen hundreds of beautiful double exposure photos and thought, why not try this myself?

Double (or multiple) exposure is the superimposition of two (or more) images to create a single image, which can be done in-camera or in post processing. I’ve never tried to do it in post processing (except maybe once or twice in my tennage-angst-filled “emo” avatars on the online forums I frequented back in high school), but I was itching to try it in-camera with Zoe.

With film cameras, double exposures are made by exposing the same portion of film twice. From what I gathered, there are two main ways of doing this:

  1. You can take a photograph and somehow (the actual steps in this are different from camera to camera) take another photograph in the same portion of film; or
  2. You can shoot a whole roll and then rewind the whole thing to shoot it again from the beginning.

The first way gives you a little bit of an advantage, because taking the two photographs one after the other will help you understand how to frame the second one to get the most out of the first one you just took.

Yet, even after watching dozens of youtube videos and reading plenty of film photography blogs and websites with all kinds of different techniques for different types of cameras, I have yet to make any of them work. Zoe locks the shutter until the film roll is advanced, and nothing I’ve tried has made her unlock it without advancing the roll. Once, I even managed to ruin half a roll of film just trying to do this.

Thus, I tried the second way: rewinding the whole roll back to the beginning and shooting again. There are also two ways to do this:

  1. You can use a permanent marker to mark the first frame edges on the film, so that you can align the roll perfectly in the second time shooting – which will make sure your first and second row of photographs are aligned with each other; or
  2. You can “freehand” it and not mark anything, letting fate do its thing and hoping for good results.

For this first little experiment, I was brave enough to try the free way. Without marking anything, I shot a whole roll. The first row of photographs were of different “background” subjects: some of my piano, plenty of trees, a few of flowers and bushes, and some of paintings and book shelves.

After rewinding the roll up to almost the end, I shot the second row, which were basically only photos of my beautiful and very patient friend who stood against her living room window to produce a silhouette.

As was predictable, because I didn’t align the roll perfectly, the shots were also unaligned, which means that each photo of the second row ended up in the middle of two photos of the first row. I knew this was a possibility, and was not in any way disappointed. In a way, this made a few of the results very interesting, as the tip of my friend’s silhouetted nose or eye would fall precisely on the black strip between two photos.

Therefore, in most of these photos there are actually three photos (or exposures). Two of the first row, each cut in half, and one of the second row. This wasn’t planned – I admit unapologetically that I didn’t plan any of these shots – but I’m really happy with the results. For a first try, at least.

One thing I tried to keep in mind was that a double exposure exposes twice – which means the film will be exposed to double the light. This is why every blog, article and video recommends that double exposure photographs be shot in lower exposure than what would normally be the ideal. I followed this guideline and overall I think it worked out okay.

The photos aren’t great in themselves. But the experience of shooting this was a wonderful little learning project for me, which makes me exuberantly happy with the results – even if they’re not actually good.


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