Thursday, June 6, 2013

Creating Multiple Exposures - It's a Snap


I dig multiple exposures. A lot of people do too. I love creating these images as a way of producing something unique, something different, something that garners attention. Multiple exposure images are eye catching because of they're a  departure from convention. I'm frequently asked how I create these images so I'll do what no magician should ever do and tell you how I do it.  With the advent of digital photography and processing tools such as Photoshop, creating multiple exposure images is much easier than with film and you have a lot more control over the final product.

There are two ways to create digital, multiple exposures - the hard way and the easy way - and when you see how to do it the easy way, you'll be amazed at the simplicity. Just for grins, let's start with the hard way.



All three images (lead image and the two baseball images) above were created the hard way. Using the first image as an example, what I'm creating is essentially is a composite using a background shot and then layering  multiple player shots that I took throughout FSU's basketball season. I selected images of players in positions that would mesh well with each other in the montage. The final image, using Photoshop, was created as follows:  1) "selecting" each player from an image using the select tool and creating a layer with mask; 2) dragging that selection/layer into the background image as a separate layer: 3) repeating the process for every other player; 4) moving the selections (layers) around to get them to fit where I needed them to be; 5) adjusting the size of each player via the transform tool to make sure all the players were similarly sized with the right perspective; 6) processing each player layer for an even color balance, exposure and sharpness; 7) fine tuning each layer to remove any part of the selection that was outside the lines, so to speak; 8) flattening the layers; and 9) making any final adjustments to overall tone, color, sharpness, et cetera.

It took me almost 20 hours of work to create the image because of the numerous player layers and my anal need to remove every last pixel that was outside each player's "lines".

The second and third images are also composites except all of the images were shot in a burst during the same game. I used one of the images as not only an image of the player but also as the background for the image. After that, creating the overall image followed the same recipe as the basketball image. Since there weren't as many layers to fine tune, the two baseball images "only" took 7-8 hours to create.

One day, when trying to find some God-only-knows feature on one of my camera bodies, I was scrolling through the menus and stumbled across a setting called ... yikes - Multiple Exposures. Huh? You mean I can avoid hours of eye-bleeding, monotonous Photoshop work to create a multiple exposure? No way.



Way. I can't speak for Canon camera bodies, but to my knowledge, virtually every digital Nikon camera body includes the capability of creating a multiple exposure image IN THE CAMERA. Say what? That's right, baby, IN THE CAMERA. The easy way. Once I found this little gem in the menu, I was able to navigate through the settings and experiment with them to create multiple exposures. It's beyond easy. It's a snap (actually, multiple snaps if you pardon the pun).

In case you have any trouble navigating through the menu, simply fall back to something that never fails - read the destruction manual. The camera manual for each Nikon body (above, p. 202 & 203 of the Nikon D3S manual) contains a detailed description on how to shoot multiple exposures. Follow the steps and holy moly guacamole....a multiple exposure.


To get the best image, I would suggest you use a fixed platform from which to shoot, i.e. a tripod or a monopod, and then lock in on a scene. A tripod works best but it's not impossible to get a decent multiple exposure with a monopod as I did in the images above and below. The reason for the stable platform is to give you a constant background in all of the exposures. If you notice in the image above, I was not able to keep the background constant and the players in the background are a little iffy from my movement of the monopod. Since they're blurred, I don't think it's any big deal but you may want something more constant. If so, just use a tripod. But bear in mind that the background people may move during the sequence so even a tripod will not guarantee a constant background when people are in the mix.


Depending on how much contrast you employ in final processing of the camera-made multiple exposure (through Photoshop adjustments like levels, curves, contrast, etc.) you can control the amount of definition of the multiple-exposed subject has in the overall image. In the first image (batter), I opted to go with a lot of definition so I goosed the contrast. In the image directly above (pitcher), I went with a more artistic, softer overall effect so I did not use a lot of contrast.

After experimenting with the camera, I've decided that for sports images, using a three-shot camera-made multiple exposure is just about right. I've tried more (5-7) and the images look too busy for my taste but you may find that you like additional exposures. Selecting the number of exposures is just a matter of the setting you use when going through the menu. You can choose from any number of exposures. In the two images above, I selected 3. I then used the Continuous Low burst mode and set it to 5 frames per second, you can adjust this as you see fit. I pushed down on the shutter to initiate the multiple exposure when the pitcher (or batter) was set, and then fired away as the throw/swing began. After 3 exposures, the camera knew it was all done and a quick peek on the back of my camera showed me the final, multiple-exposed product.

FYI, the camera reverts back to standard shooting mode after the sequence is finished so if you want to give it another go you must go back to the Menu and enable the Multiple Exposure mode.

FYI #2, you don't have to hold the shutter down continuously when using the Multiple Exposure mode nor do you have to use the Continuous High or Low. You have the freedom to shoot in either, or even in single exposure mode. You can also choose when you want each of the exposures to be recorded by pressing the shutter any time you want. For example, you could shoot one frame when the batter steps to the plate, wait until he's set and then fire the second frame, and then wait until the swing is completed to fire the third frame. The camera will stay in Multiple Exposure mode until all of the exposures you selected have been shot.

Could it possibly be any easier? Nope. Experimentation will allow you to come up with your own recipe for images. Now just go out there and try it. But let's keep how easy it is to create multiple exposures our little secret. We don't want anyone to think that it's this easy to create some pretty cool images.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Nicely done - and shhh Mom's the word! ;)