Nikon Double Exposure Tutorial

If you’ve been following my blog recently you’ll notice that some of my photos have been created using a technique known as double or ‘multi’ exposure… I’ve been asked a couple times about how these photos are created so thought i would write a tutorial or a walkthrough of how i create the images.

In simple terms a double exposure is two separate images merged together. You can create this effect using photoshop, pixlr or other similar applications but i prefer to create the images ‘in camera’ which means i take two photos in sequence and the camera processes them as a single image, this allows you to get some pretty creative results and also presents a good learning opportunity for exposure values, apertures and other camera controls based upon the desired results.

My favourite use of this technique is to create an outline or silhouette of my subject then with the second shot overlay a texture, this can give some really cool results and can work for just about anything. You can even get creative and make your own props, something that i’ve done on several occasions, i’ll often carry some lollipop sticks and glue dots in my camera bag so i can create props when i’m out and about. Providing your camera supports double or multi exposures you can use pretty much whatever lens you like, my personal favourite for this is my 60mm macro purely because of the focussing distance, i can hold small items up and focus with them being a couple inches away from the front element of the lens, if you’re shooting portraits or other double exposures then this focussing distance becomes less important.

Most Nikon cameras will share a similar menu system, my D7100 is pretty easy to navigate and to enable the double exposure function you first press the menu button and then select the shooting menu, from here you just need to scroll down to ‘Multiple exposure’ and click right on the cameras d-pad or click ‘Ok’. From here you can enable or disable the feature, you can also chose whether or not the feature is enabled for just a single use or continuously (series). I always have mine set to series, chances are i’ll take a few shots before i’m happy with the result so it’s easier using that setting. Next up you’ll chose how many shots form the exposure, on my camera it’s either 2 or 3, i always use 2 shots for this type of image but playing around with 3 shots can also give cool results.

When your camera merges the two images the result will depend on the exposure of both individual images. A simple way to think of this is that ‘the brightest part of both the photos will be most noticeable in the final image’ or ‘you will only be able to see details from the second photo if they are brighter than the corresponding area in the first photo’.  Let’s look at an example below; the first image is of a small butterfly cut from card, i’m holding this to the sky with a white lollipop stick, i’ve set my camera up in a way that the sky will be deliberately overexposed or ‘blown out’, this is what creates the silhouette effect. The second image is a photo of a flower which i underexposed slightly.

Nikon Double Exposure Nikon Double Exposure

The sky in the first image is so bright that pretty much nothing in the second image will be able to override or expose over that, the dark part of the image (the butterfly) is so dark that anything lighter than it in the second photo will have more prominence in the final merged image. In simple terms the flower and leaves are brighter than the butterfly but darker than the sky, therefore this is the only part of the image where it’s visible. It also helps if you remember the rough positioning of the subject in the first photo, this will mean you get better composition on the final image and don’t miss any important parts of the texture or detail.

Nikon Double Exposure

Let’s have a look at some of the different results you can get. In the above example there’s a big difference between the highlights and shadows, this creates the more harsh silhouette type of double exposure, if we balance the two exposures closer to each other we can create a more blended effect which you’ll see in some of the below images. The key is to practice plenty of times and remember to adjust the exposure independently for each image based upon what sort of effect you want to create.

Nikon Double Exposure Nikon Double Exposure Nikon Double Exposure Nikon Double Exposure -9 Nikon Double Exposure Nikon Double Exposure Nikon Double Expsore

Hope you like the finished products, if you’ve got any questions just give me a shout.

8 thoughts on “Nikon Double Exposure Tutorial

  1. Is it fairly easy to get the exposure and framing right on a Nikon? It seems like Canon makes double exposures easier. I really want this feature on my next camera which is going to be full frame. Currently looking at either 6D, D610 or D750 but I want to be able to do double exposures easily. Thanks!

    1. Hey Dale, the framing can be a little tricky but once you get used to it, you’ll be fine. i tend to try and remember how the first image was composed or where in the frame the object was and then take it from there. i’m pretty sure you can’t use liveview when multiple exposure is enabled which would make life a lot easier, i think some of the cannons will allow for this. it doesn’t bother me having to do it by eye, it makes it very rewarding when you get the shot! all the best.

  2. So, the two photos of the women faces…….
    Are the faces shot first against a bright white background/sky overexposed then the trees/buildings shot over that image underexposed????

    If I set Multiple Exposure at 2 with NO GAIN do I shoot in Manual mode?

    1. Hi Mary, you don’t have to shoot in manual but it really helps to get the right exposures, especially when trying to be more creative with the final product. i always have auto gain set to ‘ON’, if you don’t then when the two images are merged the brightness etc will be doubled, ideally you don’t want this to happen. Both images of the lady are taken against a bright but overcast sky allowing me to ‘white out’ the background, with the face slightly underexposed, the second shot of the trees and the building just needs to be slightly brighter than her face but darker than the sky and it will effectively ‘fill in’ the face with the detail but not overwrite it completely, unless of course you make it WAY brighter. it usually takes me half a dozen attempts to get the right finished image.

      1. Thanks Neil,

        I plan to try my dog and a woods trail since we hike every Saturday. Just bought a Nikon D7100 and have a lot to learn…..Mary

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