Using Reflections to Create a Double Exposure Illusion | Art of the Second Shot Series
The ‘Second Shot’ is the idea of taking an image that tells a part of the story from a unique perspective. So many of us just put the bride or groom in good window light and shoot tight with an 85mm. Those shots are what we call the “First Shot.” They are much-needed images, but we shouldn’t stop there. We should push ourselves outside of our comfort zone to create stunning imagery that tell more of the client’s story. If you have not had a chance to read the first article which talks more about this concept, you can do so here: The Art of the Second Shot.
Many of you have asked me to go into more detail as to how I am creating some of my “Second Shot” images. So, in this article, I’ll cover how I am using reflections to create a double exposure illusion.
All of the images in this article are a single exposure. They were created by first finding a dark reflection in glass windows or doors. Ideally, the window itself will be shaded but it should be reflecting an area that is in full sun behind you. You will know when you find the type of reflection I’m talking about when you can look at it and it literally looks the same as it does when you turn around. We are going to underexpose it in camera so it will get even darker. Below is an iPhone image of a window in my house. My window is not completely in shade but you can see what I’m talking about. The subject will need to be placed on the dark parts of the image.
Next, you place your subject inside the building. The closer they are to the glass on the other side from you, the better. It can sometimes be difficult to see the subject through the reflection, so you will need someone on the inside to use a video light to shine on your subject so you can lock focus; an iPhone flashlight works too in many cases. Next, set up a Speedlight with a grid (We use MagMod and love them) on it to light the subject. The most important part here is that light from the flash doesn’t spill onto the glass you’re shooting through. Then go outside and get your base exposure for the reflection in the glass. (Note: you will need a wireless transmitter to trigger your flash inside). Once you have that about 2/3 of a stop underexposed, you can add flash. Then power up the flash until the subject is properly exposed through the glass. See the diagram below.
Nailing The Exposure
Getting the exposure correctly balanced for these types of shots can be tough. You have to think logically about it. It’s full sun outside, and you are shooting from outside. So you can start at ISO 100 because you will need to kill the ambient enough so that your subject can be brighter than the background. I normally start at f4-f5.6 for these shots. If I shoot wide open, I will most likely miss focus. Plus my flash will blow everything out. I keep my shutter at sync speed. As I mentioned above, the best way to do it is to get your base exposure and underexpose the reflection by 2/3 of a stop. Then add flash and power it up until your subject is properly exposed.
Getting Yourself Out Of The Image
This is probably the most challenging part and something you will battle with every time. I find the composition I want and then focus and recompose. When you do this, you have to keep the camera the same distance from your subject, and you can’t tilt it much. Doing so will cause your focal point to miss. I normally try to shoot up on the subject so I can be out of the reflection. This just takes some moving around to find what works for your situation.
Image Samples Using This Technique
In this image, I wanted to tell more of the client’s story. We were in the Dominican Republic and the normal hotel room shots weren’t telling that part of the story. You can see part of his head is not crisp because the subject isn’t completely against a dark background. When you are looking for your composition, keep that in mind. I used a gridded speed light to camera right just above eye level pointed down on his face. I was shooting through a sliding glass door.
This image below was taken the same way as the above image. I couldn’t see the couple through the window so my assistant held a video light on them so I could grab focus. I used HSS to get the ambient a little darker for this one. You can see the right side of the image had a little light leak from inside the building. I used 1 Speedlight to the left of the couple. I forgot a grid, so I could only zoom my flash to 105mm, hence the light spill on the window panes near the couple. You can see how the cloudy sky came through in the reflection.
For this shot, the flash is to camera left with a grid. The couple was right up on the glass, so I had no problem focusing. I was outside shooting through the window of their venue.
This image of the wedding dress was taken through a window. The dress was on the other side of the building hanging in the window. The trees you see are from the reflection in the glass that was right in front of me. There were windows on both sides so you could look all the way through.I used one gridded flash to camera right that had to be removed from the image in post.
This last image is a little different. The groom is in the bathroom adjusting his tie. His father is looking out a window behind me, and you see him doing that in a reflection off of a picture frame in front of me. I have a Speedlight clamped to the top of the mirror in the bathroom aimed down on the groom’s face. The clamp is amazing! It makes it so easy to get light in hard places.
I hope this article helps you understand more of the thought process behind this technique. Try it out! Mess around and post your images in the SLR Lounge Facebook group and tag me so we can discuss them further! We also have a video workshop based on ocf and the “Art of the Second Shot” if you are interested in learning more about this concept. You can check it out on our website HERE.
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