How to Create Double Exposure Portraits WITHOUT Photoshop

I was searching for tutorials on YouTube recently and I came across a ton of tutorials for how to create double exposures in Photoshop.

But what if I told you that you don't need Photoshop to create awesome double exposure portraits?

As you read this article you will learn how to take double exposure portraits in-camera.

When I think of double exposures, I think of Chorale Miles.

Chorale is a Boston-based photographer who has gained recognition on Instagram for her double exposure night portraits.

 Photo by Chorale Miles. Model - @ladylaurelle

Photo by Chorale Miles. Model - @ladylaurelle

STEP 1 - Turn on Multiple Exposure in Camera Settings

Most digital cameras have a setting to take in-camera multiple exposures. 

For example, Chorale shoots with a Canon 1DX Mark II and here's how she selected her settings.  Go to Settings -> Multiple Exposure -> On: Func/Ctrl, to turn on multiple exposures.

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If you're unsure how to set this up in your camera, then Google your particular camera model and "double exposure."  You can also look up the setting in your camera manual (which you should be able to find online as well).

STEP 2 - Take a Picture of Your Model

For the first exposure you'll want to take a picture of your model. Change your camera settings until the model's face is lit properly.

Here are some recommended settings for shooting double exposure portraits at night time:

  • f/1.8

  • 1/250 second shutter speed

  • ISO 1000

STEP 3 - Take the Second Exposure of the Lights

This is where the magic happens.  For the second exposure, take a picture of neon signs or string lights.

 Chorale took this photo by taking a portrait of Sydney and then taking a photo of string lights that were wrapped around a tree on Newbury Street. Photo by Chorale Miles. Model @sydneyyy.claire

Chorale took this photo by taking a portrait of Sydney and then taking a photo of string lights that were wrapped around a tree on Newbury Street. Photo by Chorale Miles. Model @sydneyyy.claire

You'll want to go into manual focus here.  This will allow you to put the lights out of focus and create a softer look in the photo.

When taking your second exposure, make sure that the lights don't cover your model's face.  You don't want the lights to distract or obscure your subject.  Move your camera around until you get a good composition and lighting.

STEP 4 (optional) - Retake the Second Exposure Until You Get the Desired Result

One really awesome thing about in-camera double exposures is that you can retake the second image until you get one that you like.

If you don't like the shot, you can delete it and retake the second photo in the double exposure.

 Photo by Chorale Miles. Model @houseofcaviar

Photo by Chorale Miles. Model @houseofcaviar

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So that's basically it.  Taking double exposures in-camera is a really fun way to push your creativity and make some really interesting portraits.

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About the Author

Dan Bullman is a portrait photographer and YouTuber based in Boston. He produces educational videos, gear reviews and other content to make you a better photographer faster. His videos have been viewed over 1 million times. His portrait work has been featured on accounts like @moodyports @followingboston and @portraitmeet.