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double exposures for wedding photography portraits Tips & Tricks

Creating Double Exposures In-Camera w/ Nikon (+ Image Inspiration)

By Amii & Andy Kauth on July 2nd 2016

Even though we’d describe ourselves as photojournalistic in our style of wedding photography because we like to focus on moments and capture the real emotions of the day, we’d also tend to describe ourselves as creative because we like to get in close, constantly searching for the better shot and angle. At the same time, we’re still suckers for a good old fashioned portrait. Let’s just say that we like to make use of our artistic license.

One way that we like to drop some creativity into our portfolio of wedding images is with double exposures. And here’s how you can do it in-camera.

[Rewind: 3 Ideas to Inspire Creative Getting Ready Shots]

1. Conceive the Shot

First, you have to form a concept in your mind, especially since with a Nikon you can’t see the first image when shooting the second like you can with Canon – You have to capture the images separately. In the case of the image we’re sharing here, our idea was to overlay a tree with a portrait. So we took the portrait, and also snagged a silhouette of a tree branch.

double exposure tutorial

silhouette for double exposure 2. Go Into the RETOUCH MENU & Select Image Overlay

Once you have the images you want, go into the “RETOUCH MENU” and simply select “Image overlay.” Image overlay combines two existing images  that is then saved separately from the originals.

image overlay with nikon d750Once you select Image overlay, a new dialog box will be displayed with “Image 1” highlighted.
double exposures and the d750

3. Select Your Images

At this point, you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Highlight the image you want, which you can view in full frame by pressing the “QUAL” button if you so choose.

selecting images for double exposure

If you like it, press “OK,” and you’ll head back to the preview display.

how to do a double exposure in camera

Next, select “Image 2” by repeating the steps you followed in selecting your first image.

selecting image 2 in image overlay double exposure and the d750

Once you’re back to the preview display with both images selected, you may want to optimize exposure for the overlay, a process which is also known as “adjusting gain.” You can do that by selecting gain from values between 0.1 and 2.0. You’ll want to do this for both images as necessary. The default value is 1.0, and the effects are visible in the “Preview.”

adjusting image 2 in overlay

4. Preview the Overlay

You really only have two more things to do from here. Highlight “Overlay” and press “OK” to preview the image. You can also save the overlay without displaying the preview if you want. Just hit “Save.” We like to take a look though . . .

previewing a double exposure in image overlay5. Save the Overlay

While the preview of the image is displayed, you can save it by hitting “OK.” If you’re not happy with it, select “Back.” From there you can make any necessary adjustments or just scrap it and start the process over.
double exposure in camera

We liked this one, and went for it . . .

double exposures for wedding day portraits

“Prismed Portrait”: 50mm, ISO 50, f/2.2, 1/200 sec. (SB-910 w/ Softbox); “Branch Image”: 50mm, IS0 800, f/1.8, 1/100 sec.

Image Inspiration: DOuble & Triple Exposures

We really love double exposures. It’s a fun process and an artistic challenge that allows for the creation of something extraordinary that might otherwise be fairly ordinary.

[Related: How One Off-Camera Flash Turns Ordinary Into Extraordinary]

For these shots we used our D750 and either the available light; our SB-910 with our Westcott Rapid Box – 26″ Octa Softbox or a MAGMOD MagGrid2; or our AlienBees B1600, w/ a Honeycomb Grid. The EXIF data is captioned under each image!

wedding portrait with double exposure

“Silhouette Image”: 24mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec.; “Scenery Image”: 24mm, ISO 800, f/2.2, 1/2500 sec.

double exposure with ring of fire

“Portrait”: 50mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec.; “Copper Pipe/Barbed Wire Bokeh”: 50mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec.

[Related: 3 Tips for Creating Lens Flare (with a Metal Tube)]

double exposure for Hawaiian wedding

“Portrait”: 50mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/800 sec.; “Trees”: 24mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/400 sec.

double exposure with nature silhouette

“Portait”: 50mm, ISO 250, f/2.0, 1/100 sec. (SB-910 w/ MagGrid2); “Branches”: 50mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 100 sec.

black and white double exposures

“Portrait”: 24mm, ISO 125, f/16, 1/200 sec. (AlienBees w/ 40 deg. Honeycomb); “Branch”: 85mm, ISO 80, f/2.5, 1/2500 sec.

Every once and a while, we’ll step it up and even produce a triple exposure. And, really, creating a triple isn’t all that much more difficult than making a double. You just select a double exposure as “Image 1” and follow the same steps from there, selecting “Image 2,” etc.

wedding photography with triple exposure

“Triple Exposure”: “Portraits”: 85 mm, ISO 50, f/16, 1/160 sec.; “Scenery”: 85mm, ISO 1000, f/16, 1/1000 sec.

triple exposure portrait

“Triple Exposure”: 50mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec. (Same EXIF for All 3 Images!)

Conclusion

When you start dabbling in double exposures, especially if you intend to deliver them to clients, we recommend making one of your images a silhouette against a blue sky and the other some relevant piece of nature. From there you can up your game, and creativity, by experimenting with different lenses, off-camera flash, prisms, or even a copper pipe.

What are some of your favorite double exposures that you’ve taken? Leave them in the comments below! And, as always, we welcome your comments here, and/or you can join in the conversation over at our ever-growing Facebook Photography Comunity group.

Amii & Andy are a wife and husband team of rad portrait and wedding photographers (Sunshine & Reign Photography) who absolutely love life and are generally just stoked! Yeah! When they aren’t photographing or writing and teaching about photography, you’ll find them off on a seriously legit adventure with their little ones, lifting weights in their garage, training jiu-jitsu, refining their archery skills, or surfing every chance they get. And on the rare chance they escape off on a “date night”? Yep! They’ll find a wedding to crash (true fact).

Website: Sunshine & Reign Photography
Instagram: @sunshineandreign

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Angie Longacre

    Hi there, I was wondering if anyone would be willing to take a look at a curious photo I took Christmas Eve. I’m stumped. One friend says no way it’s NOT a double exposure, other friends tells me it is. HOWEVER. It’s a single, non-manipulated image. There is NO trailing, no blurring, no “double” image of the subject – just partial transparency.

    Taken on a Nikon 3400, full-auto settings, no flash. The image before it and after it are “normal,” and was also of the same subject, same position, and setting.

    I didn’t even think double exposure was possible with a slr…and I certainly haven’t manipulated it anyway.

    Pleas email if you’d like to look: anglcn@hotmail.com

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  2. Nancy Giard

    This was so easy!!! Thank you so much!!!

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  3. sam tziotzios

    Andy & Amii we must be on some kind of enegy wave or telepathic communion. Whenever I have thought about experimenting with something in the past, voila your article appeared. Prisms, Convex glass, christmas lights, ring of fire and now as I am starting out with Nikon double exposures you are right there. Keep em coming!
    .

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Nice catch, Nick. Ha! Falls off when we pull it out of our case sometimes . . . And very helpful links! :)

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    Great instruction guide for Nikon shooters.
    I did an accidental double exposure. I had bought a used Canon F-1N and when it came in, I brought it into work. As I was passing the camera to Emily, also a photography enthusiast, I heard the camera go “click”.
    That weekend, I went to a cove on the lake to photograph the sunrise. When I got the photo back, Emily was superimposed on the background of the lake, trees, with the sun. When I got the image back, I thought “How did that happen?” Oh, yea, there was that accidental exposure.

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  5. Paul Wynn

    Thank you for sharing the images. Double Exposures are an interesting approach to creating unique looks, I can imagine these are exciting talking points with clients.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      We so appreciate you reading the article and commenting, Paul! And they for sure keep our clients talking! :)

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