Tips on creating double exposures

If you shot film regularly, it’s likely you’ve already had a double exposure accident, but with some forethought, create unique and artsy imagery by adding double exposures to your shooting repertoire.  A double exposure is exposing the film twice with two different images and can be easily done on your Holga, Diana, and other toy cameras by simply not advancing the film. There’s even a hack to do double exposures with disposable film cameras.

There’s no right or wrong way to create a double exposure, but here are some tips and different techniques to consider:

Exposure and Lighting Conditions

Because it’s exposing the film twice you’ll have better results in lower lighting conditions. If your camera has F-Stop settings, you can get more detail if underexpose by 1 stop.

If your camera allows, stop down your exposures to keep images from overexposing. Joe Bailey


Shadows & Highlights

Shadows on one exposure will allow the details to show through from the second exposure. You can compose your double exposure by keeping a mental note and lining up shadows and highlights.

Double Exposure
Example of how details are prominent in shadowed areas. cx33000 via Flickr

Simple Images

To start, you may want to consider keeping on the exposures limited to simple images. Two busy exposures can be chaotic or hard to see.

Example of two simple exposures. Credit: Joe Bailey



Using a tripod, remove or add an object for the second exposure.

Ghosting – by Kelly Chiello

Partial Advance

Create sequential or horizontal images with partially advancing your film and creating multiple exposures. This technique is often used for portraits, but can also be great in telling a story.

When developing the film, make sure you make not cut the negatives.

Partial advance portrait using a Holga and colored Flash. By sergiok via Flickr

Split Images

Experiment with double exposed split images. There are inexpensive lens attachments or you can cut your extra lens cap in half or make your own

Example using a Splitzer. Joe Bailey

Other tidbits:

Double exposing an entire roll – If you’re an adventurer and despise predictability, try exposing an entire roll, re-spooling the film and reshooting it. Of course, there’s no planning with this technique and results are unexpected and sometimes spectacular.

Film Trading Groups – There are groups set up for swapping film. A person buys a roll of film, shoots it, then rewinds it, then it’s traded for someone else to shoot, or double expose the film and then process it. To give it a try or see the results, A Tale of Two Cities is a popular Flickr group that swamps film.

Disposable Camera Double Exposure – Photojojo gives simple instruction on creating double exposure using a disposable camera. The process is simple:

  • Charge your flash (most disposables have a button for this.)
  • Hold the camera in one hand, and SMACK! it down onto the palm of your other hand (lens facing out.)
  • The flash will fire, and you may get a double exposure as well! (Surprises like this are part of the fun of the film, after all!)


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