Double exposure photography refers to merging multiple images. The goal is to make them surreal, emotional, or humorous.
Though there are exceptions, they usually feature silhouettes.
Double exposure portraits may look complicated at first. But they’re easy to make. Both in-camera with digital cameras and in Adobe Photoshop.
You don’t need a double exposure camera, as there are a few other ways you can create them.
During the photo-taking process, you have to make the most of what you have, be it a limited wardrobe or one location.
In the editing world, confinements become endless possibilities. You can use these to transform ordinary photographs into powerful masterpieces.
But with freedom comes uncertainty too. How can you make your double exposures look unique?
There are many striking multiple exposure images out there, but don’t let this discourage you. No matter how popular multiple exposure photographs are. Forget about them.
There will always be a need for your double exposure ideas. As for the double exposure images themselves, there are thousands of different images you can choose from. From fine art to smoke bomb photography.
I’d like to share 16 of my favourite double exposure photos. These have sharpened my editing skills. And inspired me to look at my photos from a new perspective.
1. Use the Tilt-Shift Effect (No Extra Equipment Needed!)
You don’t need to get into freelensing or invest in a tilt-shift camera to achieve this effect. Photoshop has a great tilt-shift tool that will transform your photos into soft works of art.
If you want to be extra creative, blur one of your photos instead of the entire image. Or blur everything except for one important detail.
To use this feature, go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Tilt-Shift.
2. Create a Fake Reflection
Shooting through windows is a fun photographic technique. But there are other ways you can create reflections. One of them is creating a double exposure with the help of a separate window photo.
Take photos of different reflections. Merge them with photos of people, animals, or simple objects.
This will create moody – often abstract – photos that will add a spark to your portfolio.
I love using photos of surfaces with raindrops and bokeh, as you can see. They help to add interesting textures to my multiple exposure photography.
3. Create a Double Exposure Diptych
Diptychs are photo collages made of two separate images. These are a dream come true for those who love artistic photography.
You can take these collages to the next level with the help of double exposures.
If you have two double exposures you’re happy with, see if they complement each other. They might look appealing next to each other. Or they might tell a clearer story about your subjects.
If they do, place them side by side to create the ultimate double exposure diptych. Two, in this case, is much better than one. This is a great way to show off those multiple exposure photos.
4. Or Experiment With Simple Portraits and Detailed Textures
If you don’t know what to do with a simple portrait, merge it with a photo of detailed textures. Sand, raindrops, rocks, wood, etc., are ideal for this.
Combining something plain with something complicated will give you a balanced result. It will also save a lot of simple photos that you might discard.
I have saved hundreds of photos by taking the time to experiment with them in Photoshop. And those spontaneous creations are some of my most popular double exposure effects.
5. Convert Your Results to B&W
A lack of colour will strengthen the emotions in your double exposure. If you want to express yourself in a vulnerable way, experiment with this.
Nothing is as impactful as a photo of something (or in our case, several things) that mean everything to you. For example, nature is something I care about.
My love for biology and the world inspires me to work with details that reflect these passions. Because of this, I often include nature in my double exposures.
What do you love? Is there a way you could combine your interests with the help of this technique?
7. Start a Themed Double Exposure Project
This requires much more commitment than the other ideas. But it’s guaranteed to inspire and excite you.
Think of a photo series based on a specific theme. This can be plants, architecture, family, a season, and so on. You can even work only with white background photos, or use only dark backgrounds for your double exposures.
Don’t choose something that’s too advanced. Challenging yourself too much will discourage you. Instead, find a theme that speaks to you and gives you the perfect amount of obstacles to overcome.
This balance will help you work on any long-term project. Especially one that demands a lot of imagination and practice.
8. Work With Silhouettes Only
As you now know, there are no strict rules in double exposure photography. Many artists choose to work with silhouettes. But there are just as many who enjoy blending two images without making any separations (#3 is a great example of this.)
What if you worked with silhouettes only? It would give you a fun and doable challenge. And an opportunity to show very creative sides of yourself.
Use silhouettes of yourself, other people, or random objects. Anything else that catches your eye can create unique composite images.
9. Express an Emotion Through a Self-Portrait
Try a self-portrait double exposure. Sometimes I create emotional double exposures. I tend to combine portraits with photos of nature that speak to me for those.
Feeling lost reminds me of lonely roads, while joy makes me think about fields in the summer. You may have completely different associations with these emotions. This is exactly why you should experiment!
In double exposure photography, there is always room for your perspective.
You will create one of the most unique double exposure portraits. And have the chance to accurately document how you feel.
10. Merge Two Photos of the Same Person
Two images of the same person in one photo can express confusion, curiosity, or a search for meaning. If these topics inspire you, you’ll have lots of fun with this idea.
If you want to have fun, merge a few random photos. I do this when I have interesting photos that I’m not sure what to do with.
A random process doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful. Your results might create a story of their own, one that others will find encouraging.
A lot of my double exposures were happy accidents. But they led to great feedback and even greater creative growth.
Try and forget about any other double exposure ideas. Shoot interesting textures, shapes and forms instead.
12. Make Simple Objects Look Fascinating
Take photos of everyday objects you usually take for granted. Try to make them look like something else.
For instance, a silhouette of a dull-looking building in your area could become the outline of a starry sky. Like the photo below.
This challenge will enhance your imagination.
13. Use an Animal Silhouette
People and objects are often featured in double exposures. If you want to stand out, create a double exposure using photos of animals (bonus points if you use ones of your pet!)
Though the results of this experiment may not end up in your portfolio, they’ll let you have lots of fun.
If you don’t own a pet or have any photos of animals, use a website like Unsplash. There, you’ll have access to thousands of free photos to use in your experiments.
14. Merge Two Double Exposures
This is great for those who enjoy experimenting with a lot of elements at once. The results may look messy at first. But a few adjustments will result in something both abstract and impossible to ignore.
When I merge several double exposures at once, I tend to use photos that have similar colours. This usually guarantees that the results won’t look too dramatic.
If this isn’t possible for you, change the opacity of one of the double exposures or use the tilt-shift tool.
15. Instead of a Silhouette, Use a Shadow
Outlines of any kind are fantastic to work within double exposure photography. Shadows are as effective as silhouettes in this genre.
And they’re fascinating to work with. Take a photo of someone’s shadow and transform it into any story you want.
Try double exposure portraits. You could turn it into a heroic tale or a thought-provoking experiment. Or even something that doesn’t look like a shadow at all.
You can do anything your heart desires with outlines of this sort. All you have to do is go out, take photos of a few shadows, and turn them into something beautiful.
16. Let Others Know What Makes You Laugh
Double exposure photography is often associated with serious and emotional topics. But it doesn’t always have to lack humour.
What makes you smile or laugh? This is the ideal opportunity to create something funny, touching, and memorable.
This can be a season, a family member, or something completely different. You can use your sources of happiness to create something that will put a smile on someone else’s face.
When it comes to double exposure photography, almost anything is possible.
If you want to succeed, keep these three rules in mind:
Acknowledge that the editing process will be challenging. And some photos won’t look good together no matter how hard you try.
So, if a composition doesn’t work, let it go and try something else. Adjustments both big and small will have a huge impact on your work.
Your hard work will pay off. Don’t lose hope in yourself, work with as many photos as you can, and believe in your vision.
All you need is your photos, Photoshop (it gives you more control than Lightroom), and some free time. And you can start creating incredible double exposures right now.
Try making a double exposure using one (or all!) of the ideas above and share it with our community. We’d love to see your results!
It doesn’t matter whether you use a Nikon, Canon, or mirrorless camera. You can even create double exposures on your iPhone with a handy app like the aptly named Double Exposure.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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