Do you ever wish there were layers in an image? Or more bokeh?
In your storytelling, are you constantly chasing that better shot or angle?
Have you ever wanted to convey chaos, energy or laughter in an image but found it wasn’t coming across as powerfully as you envisioned?
Sometimes, no matter how magnificent one image is, it’s impossible for that one image to tell the whole story. When I’m feeling this way, I’ve often found that an in-camera double exposure is the answer to what I’m creatively longing for.
In my personal photography projects I love to use this in-camera technique to create purposeful and powerful stories of my everyday.
Here are my top 5 tips for using in-camera double exposures as part of your everyday storytelling.
1. Know your equipment.
I shoot with a Nikon D750. Nikon shooters, you won’t be able to see your first shot when you are shooting your second shot unlike Canon shooters who can use live view to see their first shot while aligning the composition of their second shot.
This really hasn’t been a hurdle for me, probably because I can’t miss what I’ve never tried. Going into my second double exposure shot I just have to be extremely purposeful of the composition.
Once you have both your photos that you want to layer, go under the “Retouching Menu” and select “Image Overlay.” From there you will select both of your images and it will give you a preview of them layered (you can adjust the opacity as desired) and you can decide if you’d like to save the overlay.
And for the Canon shooters, here’s a great step-by-step that I found on YouTube that walks you through the whole process. Thank you Sara Byrne Photography!
2. Start with an inspiration image.
Recently, we visited a zoo that had a carousel (besides a field of sunflowers, this is my most favorite thing to photograph). My older boys were practically making gagging sounds at my suggestion of riding it. Only my youngest was excited and it hit me that this was probably his last year of loving the carousel.
This, of course, made me want to have a breakdown right then and there. Honestly though, and only a photographer will get this, it was the thought of bokeh lights that saved me. I had a vision of him riding his dragon and the carousel bokeh lights framing him.
For the first shot, my “inspiration” image, I shot him riding past on his dragon. Then, for the second shot, I purposely photographed the carousel lights out of focus, all while considering the composition of my inspiration image and where I wanted the bokeh lights to fall around him.
I didn’t overlay the images until days later but I’m positive if I weren’t considering composition when I shot those bokeh lights, the layering would have been off. Your results will always be stronger if you have a clear vision.
3. Tell the whole story.
In-camera double exposures really allow you to highlight the hidden elements of the scene. Sometimes this can be an inspiring question to ask yourself. “What other story could this scene tell?” Perhaps the story of the mess, laughter, chaos, before/afters, or details, both in and out of focus.
Every summer my boys and I have a tradition: balloons in the trampoline. Each year they get louder and crazier. This year I choose to only use in-camera double exposures to photograph this tradition because to me, it was the only way to truly infuse the images with the powerful level of chaos and laughter that was occurring.
4. How to achieve a bokeh layer
When lights aren’t available, try to make your own framing out of a string of lights.
My youngest’s birthday is two days before Christmas so using these lights around his birthday breakfast shot added to the story. To do this, either switch your lens to manual focus or use back button focus to lock your focal point after manually unfocusing the shot to create bokeh.
If lights aren’t available, all you need is a setting with contrast of shadows and highlights. Most settings have both so there is no need to look too far. You can create your own beautiful bokeh out of just about anything, including Legos and bubbles!
5. Layer with the unexpected.
This is what will make your image look totally unique! You really can use anything. We are only bound by our imaginations with in-camera double exposures.
For this image, I shot a close up of the Magformers my son was building with through a prism because I wanted the added lines.
Here I used rocks and ever-blooming lilies from my front yard to create layers. The inspiration silhouette image wasn’t feeling summery enough for me but once I overlayed the image, it came to life and screamed summer to me.
There is something so inspiring about viewing other photographer’s in-camera double exposure work, like the images below. Anytime they use in-camera double exposures, I’m in absolute awe with the results!
It was these photographers that inspired me to venture into double exposures back in the late fall of 2016. And thankfully, anytime since then when I feel in a rut or lackluster, in-camera double exposures are there to save me and get me back to creating.
As artists, we naturally need to push our own boundaries and let out our creative emotions and energy. In-camera double exposures are another opportunity to let loose, experiment, and grow!
Words & photos by Stacie Zimmermann