Monday, January 11, 2010

Doubling for the Sake of Magic

I love double exposures! I can't help myself. I want you to catch the bug as well.

This is one of the first double exposures I took with my LC-A+RL. First roll on a night out. It's a light bulb with a cage around it and a security door at a club called the Mohawk. I started realizing the possibilities of doubling and multiplying shots.

I had tried it with my Holga, before but I just couldn't seem to get a solid double image. I later found out that I should have been shooting on 400iso not 100iso.

I have found that several cameras I use do very well with double exposures. Any camera that has a shutter cock separate from the film advance is a natural. Other cameras, you have to trick them by teasing the rewind and tricking the camera into another shot.

I love double exposures. It is 75% of the type of pictures I take. It was the thing that fascinated me the most about Lomography. There is something to be said for taking the mundane or normal aesthetic and mixing it with something it may never meet. It opens up a wider avenue for creativity in photography.

I'm going to talk about the cameras I use for multiple exposures. Then, I'll touch on what I look for to make a good double. We'll go over the different types of multiple exposures you can do. In the end, I hope you can walk away with a new fire in your eye that needs double the quenching.

Here are the cameras I like doing doubles with:
Favorite- LC-A+RL :

Fuji MS 100/1000 multi-iso Cross Processed
This was a shot at Penn Station in Baltimore, MD. I was getting out of a taxi and trying to catch a train. I saw the statue across the street and ran over to snag 2-3 shots. If I see something I really like I take about 3 shots. One to double over something I might have already saved, one as a single image and then another to save and double over the next thing I see. It's like shot insurance. So as soon as I ran inside the train station, I see this amazing stained glass above me. Without thinking I set focus raised my camera and shot as central as I could. The two shots lined up great even though I forgot about the statue being on there already.

Smena 8M

Kodak Ektachrome 100iso Cross Processed
I took the first shot of the neon sign, inside Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. We were taking the tour and the old neon sign was on display behind some blinds. I grabbed the shot with the Smena and forgot about it. Later, on the drive out of Memphis, there was a gorgeous sunset and I had to get a shot.

Note: a friend later pointed out that the sunset really looks like a beach cove with trees in it. I totally see this and am in awe of the secondary vision. This taught me to let people see what they want, first. They can interpret the images in such new and wild ways.

Smena 35:

This is a good example of using darkness to your advantage in doubles. I was in a bbq place and saw this pig neon as part of a beer sign. I got up close with no flash and snagged a shot. After that, I was taking a walk down the street and saw some lovely foliage coverage. Thought it would fill in the dark spots well.

Remember, Anything that is black or very dark will always be dominated by the next shot, if it is at all brighter.

Holga 120N:

Here I did a simple double exposure trick. Inversion. Take your shot and then flip the camera. You get images that look like reflections, if you shoot it this way, or you can have them crossing each other and forming new images and patterns. I'll discuss this in a later blog about inversions.

Canon EOS Rebel 2000 SLR:

Fuji MS 100/1000 Multi-ISO Cross Process
Apparently, a lot of film SLRs have the ability to multiple expose, built in. I wonder why I haven't seen more of this from SLR users. This shot was at the Texas State Memorial Cemetery. I found a dark grave marker with white engraved letters. So they stayed visible on the second shot with the statue.

What I think makes a good double:
I love multiple exposures but what really ruins them for me is when they are too busy.

Or when they lack a specific focus-

I always think about whether or not something is a good texture or pattern to pair with something else. Just try and keep it from being a messy shot crowd shots mixed with pipes, a table with plates and dishes on it mixed with a leaf pile, ect.

I don't always think about what I just shot or will shoot, but I try to keep a steady idea of whether it was a busy or simple shot. There is a benefit to remembering your shots and to forgetting them. You'll see. The accidents almost mean more than the planned.

Methods to Multiply:

-Film Speed Settings-

So, there are several ways to approach double exposures. First, you have to realize you are giving the shot 2x the light it normally gets. You have options. You can leave the ISO setting to match the film speed and hope the shots aren't blown out. Sometimes this works.

In this case, it was dark enough that I didn't blow out the shot. Over at Lambert's Fancy BBQ I got their big neon sign and a shot from directly below a pendant lamp.

You can set the ISO a stop down. So if the film is 100 iso you set your camera at 200. Better for daytime or flash shots.
LC-A+RL - Agfa Precisa CT 100, Cross Processed

Here I shot the sky first and the neon sign/building second. Because it was daylight outside, I cranked it down a step.

Next you can crank your shot down two steps for textures you don't want to dominate your central image. So you have 100 iso film, you take a shot at 400 for a texture and then 100 for the central focus of your picture.
LC-A+RL - Kodak EBX 100 Cross Processed

This was a white wall with pealing paint. I knew it was going to bounce back a lot of light so I compensated. In the end, I realized that this was the best way to add subtle textures to my double exposures.

-Ways to Double a Shot-

You can shoot through a roll and then rewind it to shoot through it again. This is ideal for those who can't trick their camera into letting them do multiple exposures.
Here is a vid I found that helped me avoid crossing over previously shot frames:

It also allows for creative mixing of themes. As much as doubling on the fly is fun, sometimes doing a whole roll and re-shooting gives you the ability to bring two vastly different elements together that you couldn't achieve in the moment.

Here are a few shots from a roll I shot under water and reloaded for dry land doubles.

There is a roll currently in my LC-A+RL that has a full set of exposures on it of a wall made up of Boardgames. I couldn't double those with other elements outside of the restaurant, without this technique.

Second technique is more on the fly. Cameras with built in multiple exposure control allow you to be more creative in the moment. My LC-A+RL's multiple exposure switch is well worn after 8 months of use.

Doubling when you're in the moment is great. You can do so many things. Combining elements from the same environment is like creating a collage of memories. Here are some examples of taking what would have been a normal picture more fun by throwing one or more shots together.
LC-A+RL - Fuji Superia 200 iso

Everyone has a shot of the Lincoln Memorial that looks like some variation of the other. It's hard to take something fresh. I was messing around and took several shots combining elements of the structure with the statue. Some worked well, but this one used the copper disc in the floor as a secondary image. The words above Lincoln's head were well lit so the second exposure of the copper disc didn't blow them out (having the statue and words in white helped a lot, too). I liked this shot a lot and the DCist had it as their photo of the day about a week after I got back and uploaded the shot.


Maps are boring on their own. At least this one was. No offense, map lovers. I used a yellow flash on the map and went outside and did an out of focus shot of a tree. I didn't want the tree to be the focal point of the shot, so I made sure it wasn't a sharp image. I'd be lying if I said I thought this out too much, though. This was early days of doubles.

LC-A+RL - Lomography Redscale 100 iso

An antler chandelier is kinda interesting, but trying to get the lighting right and a good angle to make it look nice enough to hold its own in a shot is too difficult for me. I took this shot inside and on the way out to my car I doubled it with the parking stripes in the lot. Dark, moody, and more interesting.

What if you want to expose more than once? You can crank the iso down once for every shot but be aware of strangling your photo of light. 100 iso film shot 3 times at 400 might present a lot more ghostly images and less solid structure. You may like this?


A triple shot on 100iso film cranked to 400iso. See how nothing really stays solid. It's all a little softer and whiter. Brick, plant, and parking stripes.

Don't crank it down and keep it a stop below the films rating.

Here it was darker out, so I could shoot the Washington Monument twice and sake a third shot for a background. Notice the inside of the subway station fills in the background because it was all black before and the white of the monument doesn't allow the subway ceiling to come through. This was another thoughtless multi-exposure. I hadn't advanced the film from the monument flip shot. I forget things.

-Altering Colors-
I use a colorsplash flash.
It lets me change the mood of a shot and alter my environments. Sometimes I use the same color to meld the images together.

I had already taken the shot of the fence with nothing behind it so I only had the chain links reflecting light. The Bear-suited gentleman was standing on the street corner right after I took the shot. So, acting by instinct, I slid the "MX" switch on the LC-A+ and snapped a shot of the bear beast. So now it looks like the bear is in a cage, where he belongs.

You can also use it to differentiate your subject:

Here I took a shot of the bamboo, at night, with a blue flash. Then a shot of my face in orange. Because there was nothing immediately behind me, except for the night, the bamboo image stays solid and doesn't overlap.

You can also use a "Splitzer". This is a card or other flat object you use to divide the lens into segments. I cut a Holga lens cap in half to make one for it, & they make a custom one for the LC-A+.
In this case, you aren't always doubling the image over the other. You're segmenting and adding where you please. Here are a few examples:

Here's one where the colors, from the two flashes, blend in the middle and form a yellow.

Doubling People
Now I've
blogged about this before
so I won't go into how to accomplish this. Doubling people can be done two ways.


Or Solid Doubling-

Multiple Exposures for Texture:
Sometimes you shoot textures to add a new feel to your normal pictures.

Flipping the Camera to create odd new images from the familiar.

You can Mirror the image-

Or Cause the image to fold in on itself-

You can also shift angles on the subject matter without inverting the shot-

That's enough for now. Next blog I'm going to tackle using darkness and negative space to your advantage in multiple exposures. I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section.

Until next time, keep furiously snapping those shutters!


  1. Great tips i just piked up a smeana 8m and am going to go try this stuff out as soon as it comes in the post.

  2. I was doing this with a fisheye N° 2.

    Some photos:

    Hope you like it.

  3. Hi!

    First time here, adorable photos!
    I have a question considering inversions and shifted angles, do you rewind the film half way before taking the other shot, or you just take the second one under an angle?

    Thank you and congrats once again :)

  4. I found this article after googling double expose tips. Thanks so much for this, there are amazing and have inspired me to go buy an LC-A+ of my own and get involved! :)

  5. this is amazing.. really inspired me to do this more. im only 15 but i have talent in photography and really hoping to do this a lot more. i want to be a professional and this is really fun to do and to just mess around.