Have you ever wanted to try doing double exposure photography? Maybe you’d like to but aren’t sure how to go about it. Or perhaps you’ve tried it and weren’t happy with the results? If you’ve ever tried to create a unique double exposure in camera and had less than stellar results, then this guide is for you.
You’ll see how to take an average image and turn it into a unique work of art by combining two images into a stunning double exposure with photo editing. We will demonstrate this process using Luminar Neo and also show you how to do it in Photoshop.
What is a double exposure photo?
The short answer is that a double exposure is exactly what it sounds like – two exposures are combined to make one final image. You can also do multiple exposures with more than two images.
This can be done during the photography stage if your camera has a double exposure mode. You can also combine images later in the post-processing stage. There are pros and cons to each option.
Why do double exposures?
It’s simply a creative option that is at your disposal as a photographer.
If you’re feeling stuck or bored with your surroundings, give it a try. It may be just the spark you need to get motivated again.
When photographing iconic locations or subjects, it’s a way to create something unique, that’s never been done before. That’s hard to do with popular locations.
In-camera settings and tips
Finally, it’s just fun to play around and see what you can make.
Most digital cameras and even some cell phones have a double or multiple exposure mode. If you aren’t sure how to find it or set it up, consult your camera’s user manual.
Below are menus for different Canon, Fuji, and Nikon cameras. Apparently, Sony mirrorless cameras do not have a multiple exposure feature, at least that’s what I found in my search. If you have a Sony camera let me know if this is incorrect.
Depending on the options for your camera you may be able to choose the number of images to be combined, and the blending mode (as seen above for Canon and Nikon).
Try them all out to see which one works best on a particular set of images. Experimentation and trial and error are needed for this kind of photography. So just test them all and learn what they each do.
Choosing your subject
When you’re doing a double-exposure plan the subjects in the two images carefully first. It works better in the camera if you have a subject that is dark and has strong backlighting or a bright background like a silhouette.
For your second image choose something that has a lot of texture like the one above. Taking them one after the other using the camera’s multiple exposure setting resulted in the image below.
Here is another example of that same idea but using options for the blend mode in the camera’s multiple exposure settings. Below are the two individual images (some cameras will allow you to keep all the frames as well as the combined one).
The images below were all done in the camera using a Canon 5D Mark III. The differences between them were created by adjusting the exposure, switching which order the images were shot, and changing the blend mode.
Sometimes just photographing the same scene twice at different angles can work too and create something unique. The image below looks like the Venice Grand Canal is tipping over. It was a failed attempt at creating a good double exposure in my opinion.
Here is another example of the same scene photographed twice. But I think this is a much more successful and interesting final image than the one above.
How to make a double exposure in processing
The other way to make a double or multiple-exposure image is during the post-processing stage. All you need is photo editing software that can handle layers, so Photoshop, Luminar Neo, Affinity Photo, etc., will all work for this technique.
That means you cannot do this with Lightroom. But if you have an Adobe subscription you can get and use Photoshop. Photoshop Elements will work also.
Here is a set of images that I combined using Photoshop.
Below is what I created from the images above. It took me about an hour of playing around, resizing and moving the images around, and a bit of editing to get it right. I’m quite happy with the result!
Which one of the following images do you prefer?
If you want to see how to put together a double exposure in photo editing, watch the video below now. I used Luminar Neo in the first part, and Photoshop in the second part so you can see how they each do the job. Use whichever software works for you.
What You’ll Learn in the Luminar Neo Tutorial
- Create double exposures by combining complementary images, such as a portrait and a landscape, or an abstract texture and a detailed image.
- Use silhouettes and experiment with blend modes (e.g., Multiply, Overlay, Soft Light, Screen) to achieve different effects.
- Adjust the opacity and use layer masks for more control over the final appearance of the double exposure.
- Enhance your double exposures with color, black and white, or contrast adjustments.
- Capture a variety of subjects in RAW format to provide flexibility in the editing process.
- Use Luminar Neo or Photoshop to edit and combine your images into stunning double exposures.
Preparing Your Images
- Process your base image: Enhance the color and contrast to give it a boost. This image will be the foundation for your double exposure.
- Process your overlay images: Any images you want to add as a layer must be exported as JPEGs. Export them as full-size JPEGs, and save them in a folder where Luminar Neo or Photoshop can easily recognize them.
Creating Double Exposure in Luminar Neo
- Select your base image: Open Luminar Neo and select the base image you want to use for your double exposure.
- Add a layer: Add a new layer by selecting “Load” and navigating to the folder containing your exported JPEGs. Choose the overlay image you want to use.
- Adjust the overlay: Resize, reposition, or flip the overlay image to achieve the desired composition.
- Change the blend mode and opacity: Experiment with different blend modes and opacity levels to achieve the desired effect.
- Edit the top layer: You can edit the overlay image by adding effects or converting it to black and white.
- Apply a mask: Use a mask and a brush eraser to remove or reduce the overlay effect from specific parts of the image.
Here are the images I used for the video demonstration.
Note: In the video, I mentioned that you can also do this on your phone using Snapseed. So download the app and try it with some of your mobile images as well just for fun. It’s a great app, I use it all the time for processing photos on my phone.
Here are the three finished images I created by combining the ones above.
Learn more about Luminar Neo:
- How to Make Stunning Night Photo Edits with Luminar Neo
- All our Luminar Neo Tutorials
- Read my review of Luminar Neo
Tips for Successful Double Exposures
- Choose complementary images: Select images that work well together, such as a portrait and a landscape, or an abstract texture combined with a detailed image. This will enhance the final double exposure effect.
- Silhouettes: Using silhouettes as one of the layers can create visually striking double exposures. High-contrast silhouettes work best, as they allow the other image to show through more effectively.
- Experiment with blend modes: Different blend modes will produce different results. Some common blend modes for double exposures include Multiply, Overlay, Soft Light, and Screen. Don’t be afraid to try different blend modes and see what works best for your images.
- Adjust the opacity: Fine-tune the intensity of the double exposure effect by adjusting the opacity of the top layer. This will allow you to control how much the bottom layer shows through.
- Use masks: If you want to hide or reveal specific parts of the top layer, you can use layer masks in both Luminar Neo and Photoshop. This will give you more control over the final appearance of the double exposure.
Okay, are you inspired to give this a try yet?
If so, I want to see your double or multiple-exposure images. Please share what you make in the comment area below. Let’s see how creative you can get!