on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Multiple Exposure Photography

Creativity In Camera

Doug Chinnery

Doug Chinnery is a fine art photographer, workshop leader and lecturer with a particular interest in the transformative opportunities of landscape photography.


Multiple exposure photography is nothing new. Examples can be traced back to the very beginnings of photography, where a light sensitive material has been exposed twice, overlaying one image on top of another. It seems likely that this ability to create layered exposures was discovered by chance, as the result of a mistake, forgetting a slide had already been exposed.


Soon photographers were playing with the effect, often to create hoax images, by making an individual appear twice in the same frame, for example. Early film cameras had no locking mechanism to prevent accidental exposure of a frame twice due to forgetting to wind the film on after exposing a frame. The resultant images were usually awful mishmashes, often over exposed, but just occasionally a coming together of the subjects in both frames and a balance of the exposures led to a really pleasing creative photograph. It was this that creative image makers strove for, burning through lots of film in the pursuit of a great image.

In recent years, the resurgent interest in ‘Lomography’, especially amongst young photographers drawn to the retro nature of shooting on film using low quality cameras, often from Eastern Europe and toy cameras, has seen multiple exposure images appearing again on photo sharing sites as they experiment with the effects that can be achieved.

For those who love just pure, classic photography, you may be thinking multiple exposures are probably not for you. However, you may find some of the features, especially in the new top end Canon DSLR’s with their blending modes allow you to achieve things in camera which you were having to toil away at in Photoshop. The feature is not just for quirky or artistic and creative photography by any means.

© Edward Steichen - New York, 1933

© Edward Steichen - New York, 1933

Multiple Exposure Photography with Digital Cameras

Many modern digital cameras now have the facility to shoot multiple exposures. To find if your camera has the function just check the manual or Google it. In most cases, the ability of the camera is limited to overlaying one image on top of another, much like the look achieved in exposing a frame of film multiple times. Many will allow just one mage to be overlaid on top of another while some will allow more than two frames to be overlaid. You will also find that some of the more advanced cameras will provide some assistance in helping you to underexpose each frame to help avoid over exposure.

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  • kevinmarston

    Great article Doug and very honest and insightful comments from both Valda and Chris. Using ME and ICM techniques can seem to be like ‘ploughing a lone furrow’ and the processes are difficult to get right, both technically and creatively. Somedays you will seem to be ‘in the zone’ and other days far from it. I agree with the fact that producing something unique and challenging in this genre of photography can be very satisfying and stimulating. I tend to liken it to improvising in music (something I also like to do). The creative journey has to have some sort of frame or creative coherence to give a sort of subliminal anchor point but then the real excitement comes in stretching the boundaries, breaking rules and taking risks. Pushing yourself into areas just to see what happens and then finding your way out! Miles Davis’s ‘In a Silent Way’ comes to mind here. Similarly, continuing with this musical theme – the ME technique is like the building of tracks in a recording studio. The relative dynamics of each track (volume, bass, treble etc.) have to be worked on separately – as in each image in a ME composite – but then they have to blend together successfully to produce a dynamic and satisfying final image or track. The unpredictability of this type of photography I find to be very stimulating and exciting – and yes, my trash bin gets very full too – but with practice and perseverance you get a better idea of what works. Thanks again Doug, Valda and Chris. Excellent stuff.

  • francesca

    Thanks Doug for a good article with some inspirational pictures.
    I would love to learn more about actual technique go ME. Some of these images really appeal.
    Is there scope for another article or does it mean a workshop??

  • Caroline

    Hi interesting article on an intriguing technique.

    Have you seen Caroline Fraser’s work? She has produced some fascinating and beatiful images with this technique.

    Otoh most of my attempts have been appalling but this article is inpiring me to keep trying…. many thanks.

  • TivFoto

    Thanks for another fine read. I know you’ve been doing this type of photography for a while Doug, when I have a creative block I turn to photographers like you for inspiration and still chasing a satisfactory style of my own. I love the Monet style photo you’ve shown here above, if anything I want my photos to not look like photos and more like paintings, . . . but i’ve a long way to go yet.

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