i came upon this image a few months ago, i can't remember where. i must have been doing a google search for something related to my camera, canon 5d, mark III. i am pretty much a straight shooter, closer to the school of f64, and have never considered shooting this sort of "gimmicky" trick photography. but there was an lovely quality to the picture and i found myself getting sidetracked and doing a search for double exposure photography and found there were a few photographers out there who had taken the technique and turned it into an art.
the above image was shot by sarah k. byrne and she graciously shares how she technically made her images. (she does it all in camera with the double exposure function.) the person who seems to be the master of the double exposed image is christoff relander. his we are nature series is evocative and beautifully done. the images are poetic and in my opinion they transcend the technique. he does all his double exposures in camera too.
as a photographer with an establish work method, this is certainly a departure from the way i normally shoot. i wanted to experiment with this technique but i knew i'd probably never "find" time to do this. so i set a project for myself; i volunteered to do the class auction project for my son's class and decided the project would be double exposed portraits. this put some pressure on me to actually go out and do it, plus it's for a good cause and will hopefully generate a lot of donations for the school. my children's schools have been incredibly helpful for situations like these. i can test out techniques and try things i wouldn't normally do. i get unexpected requests from teachers or i approach them with an idea or a whim and then we just go ahead and do it. i usually get 2-5 mins with each child, have to shoot wherever there is a free corner, and i have to use the available, usually fluorescent, light. i have used everything from bed sheets and the children's drawings to that crinkly, terribly thin bulletin board paper for my backgrounds. it's a different way of working than i am used to and many times i lament not having the proper lighting or time or studio to do it right. i do the best i can with what i am given and try to fix what i need to afterwards in photoshop. working with these constraints has stretched me as a photographer and made me more adept at finding creative solutions.
i did not do my double exposed image in camera. mainly becasue i wanted to add another layer of meaning to the pictures and decided to photograph the natural elements for the double exposure at the camp where my son's class will be spending a week camping. i was given permission for to shoot at the location about an hour and i worried i wouldn't be able to get the best possible double exposures i wanted for all 23 children in the time allotted, so i had to find a way to do it at my leisure in photoshop.
i watched a lot of youtube tutorials and read many how to blogs. i gathered info and techniques from all of them but in the end the one i found most simple and the one i based my method on was this site. i say based my method on becasue that tutorial uses photoshop elements and i do not have that program. i used the basic technique in the video (i dragged the image of the leaves into the portrait and then hit overlay), then i started doing my own thing. by making layered files i was able to free transform the trees to fit and place the leaves more strategically and was still able to play with the densities of each image separately. i still don't think i have a good grasp on this technique yet (the following image in the post of my son is my first attempt) but i am sure after working on all 23 of the class portraits (and all their siblings) that i will have a better handle on it. i'd love to try it in color but for a newbie like me it was helpful to be able to turn everything back and white, one less thing to have to consider.
overlaying the images on top of each other was one technique. the one i used for the above image. but i soon discovered that if i used screen (instead of overlay) that it made a more true double-exposured image. my husband likened overlay as more of a projection of the second image on top of the portrait. some of the images look better as overlays and some of them look better as screen/double exposures. here is the image i made using screen. forrest and ginko leaves.