Experiment with multiple exposures in the camera

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Many modern cameras allow you to create multiple exposures. Few photographers use this function. At first, I forgot about it, thinking it was just a gimmick. But it turns out to be a very creative tool. Maybe this article will inspire you to try it.

Multiple exposures are nothing new. In the days of analog photography, it was easy to make sandwich slides. By placing two slides in one frame, it was possible to achieve nice effects. With a little planning and creativity, you can even exhibit a negative multiple times behind closed doors.

With software like Photoshop, combining multiple images is also very easy. There are many ways to combine more than one photo, and the results may exceed the effects possible with slide film and negative film. But it gets a lot more fun if you can shoot multiple exposures on the camera.

Not all cameras offer multiple exposures

I first discovered the multiple exposure function on my Canon EOS 5D Mark III. It looked like a gimmick not worth reviewing. But after a while, I started experimenting with the possibilities, just for the fun of it. I also noticed how other cameras offered the ability to take multiple exposures.

Canon EOS cameras can shoot raw footage with the multiple exposure function. the Nikon z fc can also do multiple exposures, but after merging two or more exposures, the result is a built-in JPEG in the camera.

For my experiments, I used the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Canon EOS R5, both of which can take multiple exposures and produce a raw file. I also have a few examples of the Nikon Z fc, but these are all built-in jpegs as mentioned before. The possibilities will of course be different for each camera.

Multiple exposure parameters

With the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the functionality is accessible with the button which also allows to choose the image profile and the HDR functions. For the Canon EOS R5, you have to dive into the menu. I placed the function on the My Menu page for easy access.

Canon offers four different ways to combine multiple exposures: additive, medium, light, and dark. If you are familiar with Photoshop’s merge option, you will notice the similarity. This setting will determine how the different images are combined. I have found the additive to be the best choice for all occasions, especially when there are a lot of dark areas in your images. For dark subjects against a light background, darkness might be a better choice. You will have to experiment for yourself to find what works best.

The other parameters speak for themselves. It may be a good idea to save the source files as well if your camera provides the capability, especially when it only produces a JPEG output.

Most cameras that offer the multiple exposure feature allow more than two images to be combined. Canon has a limit of nine images. It might be too much, but it all depends on your topic. With more than two images, there is a significant risk that your image will become too cluttered.

Shooting of the two images on the site

Now comes the fun part. If you are there, it is possible to activate the multiple exposure function and take the two images one after the other. It all depends on your creativity. You can change the focal length between shots, aperture, or exposure. Even the focus itself can be changed.

If you are using a DSLR, I recommend that you turn on the live view feature. With both Canon and Nikon, the first images are projected onto the screen, with the live image overhead. Now you can create the new composition to blend the two images perfectly. For mirrorless camera users, the LCD screen and electronic viewfinder will show the overlay.

Most of the time, multiple exposures work best with many dark areas in the image. I used it with night photography at a night fair, but also with portraits outdoors and in the studio. The first image would be the portrait, while the next image could be out of focus lights. By using a large aperture, it is possible to turn these lights into beautiful large bokeh rings.

This is just an example of using multiple exposures. Another could be a field of flowers. By adding a second blurry image, you could achieve a nice Orton effect without the help of Photoshop. Another option is to use deliberate movement in one of the images by adding a neutral density filter to achieve a longer exposure.

Use an existing image

With Canon, is it also possible to select an existing image on your memory card to act as the first image. It brings a little more flexibility to your multiple exposures since you don’t have to take the two images one after the other.

Select an image on your card that matches your wishes. Then you can take the second image from the top. The live view feature will be very helpful in making the best possible composition and changing the parameters of the second image as you like.

Why behind closed doors and not in post-processing?

You might be wondering: why not use Photoshop for multiple exposures? My answer is surprisingly simple: just because you can. It offers you a way to photograph creatively with both the possibilities and the limitations of your camera. If you get a good result, it is very rewarding.

With Photoshop, it’s much easier to combine multiple images to perfection. But that’s photo manipulation instead of photography. This is why multiple closed-door exhibitions are often accepted in photo competitions. I will continue to experiment with this awesome feature as there are so many more possibilities for you to discover.

Have you already tried several exhibitions? Or do you have another app for this feature that I didn’t mention? Please tell me in the comments below. Good luck with your experiments.


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