Wednesday’s Impressions ~ Double Exposure

"The Last Black-eyed Susan"

“The Last Black-eyed Susan”

This was the last black-eyed susan of the year in our garden. This impressionistic photo is created using a double exposure technique.


This technique for creating an impressionistic photo might be the simplest. If your camera has a multiple exposure function this will be very easy. If it does not, you’ll have to use a layer-based photo editor (like Photoshop) or some other way to combine two or more photos. Today I’ll cover using multiple exposure, the way this photo was created. Tomorrow I’ll give you some tips on how to accomplish a similar effect in Photoshop.

For this multiple exposure you’re going to release the shutter only twice. Once to create the sharp part of the photo and the second time to create the blurry impressionistic effect. If you exposure time is fast enough you don’t even need a tripod for this.

    1. Set your camera to Aperture priority mode
    2. Select a subject and use your in camera meter to check the exposure shutter speed. When you set the multiple exposure function in aperture priority to use two shots, the camera will half your shutter speed automatically. So you’ll want to sure you can hand-hold your camera at half the shutter speed that your meter has selected. You can take a few test single exposure shots with different apertures to find a good shutter speed.
    3. Set your camera to manual focus and turn on your multiple exposure mode set at two exposures.
    Note: The next two steps happen in a quick succession. So make sure you know how to accomplish them without taking your eye off the view finder.
    4. Aim your camera at the subject, focus where you want the sharpest area to be and release the shutter for the first exposure.
    5. Without taking your eye off the view finder, defocus the lens so the everything gets blurry and release the shutter for the second exposure.

How blurry? That part is up to you. It’s your vision and your decision. I suggest creating several versions of this photo and selecting the one you like best later.

The blurry part of the photo will have an overall softening effect. It will also help hide any unwanted distractions in the final photo by making them far less noticeable.

If there are any points of light, like those caused by the reflection of the Sun on a water drop, those points will turn into large circles. The size of the circle will depend on how much you defocus. The more you defocus the larger the circle. Using a mirror lens, like in this photo, the circles become rings due to the mirror blocking the center of the lens itself.

There will be a defocus point where everything just becomes color of an undefined shape. You can use this to create a kind of in-camera background or overlay of colors. The overlay of colors will mix with each other and with the colors from the first exposure and soften all the colors a bit making them less saturated.

Go out and give this a try if you’re interested in impressionist style photography. Try changing things up by using more than two exposures or making one exposure longer than the others. I purposely used a higher ISO to create more noise in this one to get a grainy look. I’m sure there a lot of ways to play with this that I have yet to think about. Keep shooting and have fun!

~ Daniel Kmiecik


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