Fujifilm / SOOC

Have a shot at in-camera double exposures

Create in-camera double exposures – part 1 (read part 2 here)

I’ve been excited about creating double exposures with my Fujifilm camera ever since I discovered the feature in my X100s way back when. I love the thought of creating something that’s different and requires some planning and effort. But, quite honestly, I never took any time to really apply myself to the topic, so apart from a couple of not-very-exciting-snaps, my excitement about this technique never resulted in anything meaningful. Until recently. 

When Ritchie Roesch and I decided to make in-camera double exposures the theme for the final episode of 2023 of SOOC I knew I had to immerse myself fully in this technique and create a number of examples that would showcase what can be achieved in camera.

The best way for me to tackle something new photographically is by doing, in other words to just start shooting. So, with the added pressure of a deadline hanging over me, I did. And I am so grateful for it too. There’s something very special about the process of creating double exposures in camera.

The more I shot, the more confident and adventurous I got at trying different things. New ideas kept coming and I soon figured out what worked well and what to look out for. It was very rewarding and I’m really happy with the results. They made good showcases for this genre and were used during the latest live broadcast.

What is your take on double exposures? Have you had a go at it? Or do you resonate with where I’ve been – keen, but unsure if you have what it takes to create something meaningful?

If you are new to this genre, you may feel a little overwhelmed or intimated by the challenge of putting your creativity on the line like that. I hear you but, don’t worry. I’ve got you! You’re in the right place!

Journey with me by following these steps and soon enough you will be well on your way to creating awesome double exposures that you will love!

Ready? Okidoki, let’s go.

Step 1: Set up your Camera

Getting your camera set up to shoot double exposures is not difficult, you just need to know where to find the settings. Fujifilm calls the feature MULTIPLE EXPOSURE and the way to access it varies from model to model. Most commonly, it is found in the DRIVE SETTINGS which may have a dedicated button at the back of the camera or may be found on the drive dial together with BURST MODE, BRACKETING and ADVANCED FILTERS. In the X-T5, the two overlapping squares (the symbol for Multiple Exposure mode) are no longer part of the drive dial but found in the SHOOTING SETTINGS.

To navigate there is not really convenient, so I have programmed the DOWN BUTTON on the D-PAD to give me quick access to this feature.

With the launch of the X-Pro 3, Fujifilm introduced 4 different EXPOSURE controls inside the MULTIPLE EXPOSURE menu. All models released since then, offer AVERAGE, ADITIVE, BRIGHT and DARK exposure and you have the option to combine up to 9 exposures into one. Previous models always use AVERAGE exposure and combine only two images.

If you are shooting on a newer camera model, you have to choose the EXPOSURE before you start, but you can decide on the number of images you want to combine while shooting.

Many people find it easier to start their double exposure journey with AVERAGE EXPOSURE so I recommend you go with that first. Remember to set the DRIVE DIAL to SINGLE FRAME.

Step 2: Choose and load a Recipe

Of course there are recipes that are a particularly good choice for this way of shooting. If you have watched Episode 13 of Season 3 you will already know which recipes we have recommended. If not, here’s a recap: 

Mystery Chrome

It’s pretty contrasty and so lends itself well for the blending of multiple images. It produces desaturated colours which give your images a nicely finished look. And it is the first ever recipe that was created during a live broadcast. It took Ritchie and I with the support of a team of 6 live guests in the “Let’s Get Festive” episode of last season, to bring it to life and this month’s theme is the perfect opportunity to celebrate its anniversary.

Dramatic Monochrome

This black and white option will also give you lots of contrast and grit which will produce fantastic multiple exposures, especially when shooting in ADDITIVE EXPOSURE mode.

If you need guidance on loading a recipe into your camera, you can watch this quick video.

Step 3: Start Creating

In order to get a feel for the process, I recommend you start creating some images at this point. Just start shooting. Don’t procrestinate. Don’t overthink it. It’s best to get familiar with the technical part first. We’ll get to the creative aspect later.

With MULTIPLE EXPOSURE mode turned on, go ahead and take your first image. You will see a menu overlay at the bottom of the frame as the image appears that lets you either keep the shot or try again. Once you have committed to your first image, it’s time to find your second exposure. The first image will stay visible during this step which is super useful as it makes lining up your second shot quick and easy. In true Fujifilm WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) fashion, you will see what your final image will look like before you’ve taken your second image. It’s a fantastic way to accelerate your learning curve. When you are happy with the second exposure, press DISP./BACK. The image will be saved and you are ready to create your next image. For now, I strongly recommend you stick to layering only two exposures but you are welcome to experiment what happens if you keep on adding more exposures.  

When you press the PLAYBACK button, you will see that the camera recorded your double exposure as a jpeg (and, if your camera is set to shoot RAW+JPEG it will also record each of the individual exposures as separate RAW files. It does not create a RAW file from your double exposure though.).

Step 4: Add meaning

Once you have taken a few images and are more familiar with the process, you can start focussing on adding meaning to your images to make them more powerful. There are tons of ways to do that and I assure you that ideas will come to you once you’re in the swing of things. To get you out of the starting blocks, you can look for topics like “love”, “words”, “water” or “man vs nature” for example. Finding suitable image pairs is a lot of fun and will get easier after a while. You will soon realise that it’s worth putting in some extra time and effort because the more intentional each image is, the better the double exposure will be. 

Step 5: Add textures and colours

Another way to create interesting double exposures is to add a photograph of a texture as your second image. This could give your photograph a look that is as if it was printed, for example, on canvas, wood or corrigated iron. You could even go as far as adding a colour overlay. But more on that a little later.

Step 6: Choose Additive Exposure

Once you feel you are ready to up yor game, you can change the EXPOSURE CONTROL in the MULTIPLE EXPOSURE menu from AVERAGE to ADDITIVE. This will allow you to create quintessential double exposures – the kind of images we first think of when we hear “double exposures” – a combination of silhouettes and texture. It will combine both images by adding the dark parts of the second exposure inside the dark part of the first exposure, rather than layering both images with the same weight onto each other (like in AVERAGE).

Switch the recipe to Dramatic Monochrome or, if you haven’t done so already, load the settings into your camera. It’s the perfect recipe for these kinds of images and it will turn your double exposures into powerful, fabulous looking images.

To create additive exposures successfully, it is important that you choose a good silhouette as your first image. A subject with distinct outlines against the sky for example works really well. Make sure that your silhouette is dark and the area around it is white or blown out. The black area will be filled with whatever you choose as your second exposure. Try to find subjects that complement or contradict each other. Trees or clouds are a popular choice, like in this example.

The process is the same as creating an AVERAGE EXPOSURE. Once you’ve committed to the first image, it will remain in the viewfinder and you can align your second exposure so that the final image looks exactly the way you want. You will notice though that the bright areas in the saved image will be brighter than what you see while shooting. Therefore, I recommend that you underexpose one or both of the exposures so that the final image retains good detail and doesn’t get a washed out look.

left: double exposure with two correctly exposed images – right: double exposure with the first exposure underexposed by 1 stop

And that is all there is to it. Kind of. Of course, there is always more, but by following just these steps, you will already be able to create lots of awesome double exposures in camera. Experiment lots and find different ways to achieve results you will be proud of. One step at a time!

Speaking of steps… how is your appetite for more? Hungry for more? Of course, there is always more!

We introduced another technique during the show. If you watched it you will know how excited I am about it. If you haven’t seen it yet, buckle your seat belt – this technique is a bit of a mind bender and the gateway to endless hours of fun, creativity and the icing on your layer cake. It’s such a goody that it deserves its own article and you can read it by clicking on the link below. But before you do, I want to encourage you to go out and shoot lots, experiment and push boundaries. No idea is too wild, no approach too off the wall. Anything goes. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do and get results that make you happy. One word of caution though: It is quite addictive and once you start, it’s hard to stop! 

Create images with a faded look in camera (create in-camera double exposures – part 2)

If you missed our Season 3 Finale of 2023, grab a seat, sit back and watch it now.

And don’t forget: Join the SOOC community and share three of your favourite double exposures created as 1) an average exposure with Mystery Chrome or 2) an additive exposure with Dramatic Monochrome or 3) the techniques and recipe from this article by uploading them here by Tuesday, 23 January and they will get featured in the next “Viewers’ Slideshow”.

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