The Artistry Behind Double Exposure Film Photography

The Artistry Behind Double Exposure Film Photography

While it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume that one of the most well-known photographic effects was unintentionally developed, its incredible popularity has been anything but accidental. Double or even multiple exposure photography has been around for a long time. 

Nowadays, there's a never-ending search to perfect both the technical and emotional sides of the craft.

What Is Double Exposure Film Photography?

Airplane double exposed with clouds.

In the simplest of terms, double exposure film photography involves exposing two images onto a single frame of film. You can do this in camera or by scanning and editing your negatives.

The technical side of multiple exposure techniques is vital to ensuring that your image comes out sharp and correctly exposed. But it's the emotional side that will make or break your image. After all, a great double exposure should tell a story.

Photographers often use the this technique to convey emotional insight, show a sequence of movements, or illustrate a change in time.

Planning your arrangement is vital for obtaining the best results, alongside technological understanding and maybe a little good luck. Pre-determining how your two images will combine may make all the difference between a jumbled mess and a stunning composition.

You don't need to be a professional photographer to do this. The key to success is practice and experience. The concept will get you started, but the more you test things out, the better you'll understand your equipment's limits and capabilities. 

How To Create Double-Exposure Photographs On Film

While there are many ways to create a double exposure, one of the most popular methods is to use an SLR camera with manual controls. 

First, you'll need to set your camera to its bulb setting. It will keep the shutter open for as long as you hold the shutter release button. 

Next, you'll need to cover the lens with your hand (or use a lens cap) and take your first exposure. Once you're happy with the first exposure, remove your hand from the lens and take the second exposure.

And that's all there is to it! But, of course, there are a few other things to keep in mind if you want to create stunning double exposures. 

Three people double exposed with skyline.

For example, a tripod will help ensure that your images are perfectly aligned. And if you're shooting digital, you can always experiment with different blending modes in Photoshop or Lightroom. But at the end of the day, it's all about experimentation. So, get out there and start playing around with double exposures.

One of the oldest and most popular multi-exposure techniques is to combine a portrait with a landscape. Do this by first taking a picture of the person and taking a picture of the scenery. When developed, the two images will be superimposed on top of each other.

Another double-exposure technique is to take two pictures of different subjects in the same frame. For example, you could take a picture of a flower and then take a picture of a bird in flight. When developed, these two images will appear together in the same frame.

Choosing The Best Film

When it comes to film photography, choosing the best camera and film is half the battle won. 

This method is best suited to black-and-white or color-negative film since they have a wide exposure latitude, which means they can handle over-exposure well, and the metering is much less daunting.

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Double-Exposure Photos

Here are some tips from our in-house pros for getting the most out of your double-exposure photos:

Check Your Camera

Some cameras allow you to shoot more than one frame without having to advance your film and other cameras do not. If your camera does not allow multiple shots on the same film spot, you can always reload and shoot it again. Of course, there's a good chance the images won't perfectly align, but you can still achieve double exposures this way.


Set it and forget it. Since film does so well with overexposure, exposing it at the correct metering more than once won't prove problematic. This is just one of the many reasons we love film photography.

Flowers and people

Flowers and people: A woman double exposed with flowers

One of our favorite type of double exposure are portraits combined with beautiful floral arrangements. It adds a lot of depth and emotion to your photo.


Man double exposed with water flowing down rocks.

Try some double exposures of waterfalls or the ocean. Try to keep your shutter open for a few seconds to capture the movement of the water.

While double exposure film photography may sound complicated, it's pretty simple. And with a little bit of practice, you can create some truly stunning images. So go out and give it a try! We guarantee you'll be hooked in no time.

Get Exposed

Hand holding plant double exposed with forest.

Including double exposure photography in your repertoire of tricks can make even the most mundane scene exciting and eye-catching—not to mention the fact that it can produce some seriously ethereal results. 

So what are you waiting for? Get in on the action, and be sure to check out our other articles on film photography.  

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