Double exposure in Photoshop: features, recommendations and effects

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Double exposure in Photoshop: features, recommendations and effects
Double exposure in Photoshop: features, recommendations and effects

Double exposure is the effect that results from superimposing one image over another. This article will show you how to make a double exposure in Photoshop.


Double exposure (another name - multiple exposure) appeared during the use of film cameras. The effect occurred when the photographer took two shots without rewinding the film. The exposure was on the same piece of film, and the two photographs were mixed. This could happen by accident, or it could happen on purpose, if the photographer specially selected two frames suitable for the composition.

double exposure in photoshop
double exposure in photoshop

Modern facilities

Digital cameras do not have film, and each new frame is automatically saved to a separate file in the device's memory. Because of this, in theory, a successful (or unsuccessful) marriage of double exposure is impossible even on the most advanced "reflex cameras". In theory - because in practice the camera can break. But breaking a device on purpose is a bad idea. This is where double exposure comes to the rescue in Photoshop.

Which pictures to use?

The artist's imagination knows no bounds - you can always come up with something new. But usually for a double exposure in Photoshop, they use a portrait (as the base) and a landscape (as the background), creating surreal and atmospheric pictures.

Well, let's get straight to the creation.

First of all, open both files for double exposure in Photoshop (CS6, CS5 or CC version - doesn't matter).

Step 1. Selecting the main image

There are two ways to select the main image in which the background will be placed.

  1. Whiten the background of the portrait with a brush. Suitable for portrait studio photos where the background is already light.
  2. Select the shape in the photo and copy it to a new layer.
exposition in photoshop
exposition in photoshop

For the first method follow this instruction:

  1. Open the portrait file.
  2. Make two copies of the layer.
  3. Go to the top copy.
  4. Increase the contrast of the image (use the Contrast tool or the Curves tool).
  5. Select the Quick Selection tool and select only the background.
  6. Take a white brush and whiten the background.
  7. Invert selection (Select tab - Invert)
  8. Erase the part of the image with the portrait to the bottom layer with the eraser.
  9. Merge two copies.

If the figure is simple, you can do without increasing the contrast and selection, and whiten it manually. But it's long andpainstaking work.

Instructions for the second method:

  1. Open the portrait file.
  2. Select the Pen Tool or Lasso Tool.
  3. Carefully circle the shape with the tool.
  4. Go to the "Edit" tab, select "Copy" first, then "Paste" (you can also use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V).
double exposure in photoshop cs6
double exposure in photoshop cs6

Step 2. Merge with background image

Go to a tab with an open background image. If the file is not open, open it.

Double exposure in Photoshop is a creative task. The instructions below describe the basic step-by-step technique, but it is allowed and even recommended to move away from it, try other options, see what happens.

First way

If you bleached the background:

  1. Transfer the layer from the landscape file to the portrait layers ("Duplicate layer" function).
  2. Move the layer under the portrait (life hack: name the layers for convenience. To do this, double-click on the layer name).
  3. Select a blend mode. "Lighten" is recommended, but feel free to experiment with others.

Double exposure in "Photoshop" is ready!

Second way

photoshop 5cs double exposure building
photoshop 5cs double exposure building

If you used the method of selecting an image and copying it:

  1. Go to the scenery tab.
  2. Copyphoto layer.
  3. Go to the portrait tab (or whatever you like as a base).
  4. Press "Paste" or key combination Ctrl+V.
  5. Create a clipping mask - hold down the Alt key.
  6. Go to the landscape layer and change the blending mode to Dodge, Overlay, or whatever works best for you.

Multi-exposure created!

Editing Guidelines

Use the Free Transform tool to control how much of the landscape photo is superimposed on the portrait.

Use the Eraser tool to erase the parts on the portrait layer where you don't want the landscape background to overlap.

how to double exposure in photoshop
how to double exposure in photoshop

Use "Toning", "Curves", "Contrast" and other color correction commands to find the perfect color combination. Create a new adjustment layer and see how the perception of the photo changes with different settings.

Don't forget the art of black and white photography - desaturate all or part of the resulting image and compare with the color version. Sometimes a black and white photo conveys more emotion.

Blend Modes

As mentioned above, to create a double exposure effect, the "Lighten" blending mode is usually used (in English "Photoshop" this is the Screen mode). It works on the same principle asexposed in film cameras - multiplies the light pixels of one picture by the light pixels of another, leaving white pixels white, so use it for the effect of traditional film multiple exposure. Add noise, correct colors and get an almost real film shot.

The "Dissolve" blend mode blends the colors of the pictures. Use it if you want to get an interesting (and random!) color effect without manual color correction. For the same purpose, you can use the Color, Hue, Saturation, and Separation blending modes.

Keep in mind that modes such as "Multiply" and all others with the mention of "darken" in the name result in dark images, while "Linear Light" and similar - light.

Also, the overlay of all modes can be adjusted using transparency.

double exposure portraits in photoshop
double exposure portraits in photoshop

Creating pictures for double exposure

Shots for multiple exposure can be selected from the available ones, or you can create in advance. In doing so, follow these recommendations:

  • shoot portraits against a light, ideally white, background (take pictures in a studio or at home - cover the place of the picture, for example, with a white sheet);
  • prepare good lighting;
  • shoot landscapes that are not too uniform, but not too diverse either. Well suited forest, tree branches, sky;
  • don't take too bright pictures - double exposure will lighten themeven more.

Other options

Double exposure portraits in "Photoshop" - this is only a small layer of masterpieces of this technique. The best advice is don't listen to anyone's advice. Film photographers often do multiple exposures at random - try it in your Photoshop 5CS too. Double exposure building + landscape, building + portrait, landscape + urban area, portrait + other portrait - you can always come up with something new. Open pictures, overlay them on top of each other and, if you like something, start processing with all the tools described above. No theory can replace practice. Catch your inspiration and create!

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