Double Exposure | Artistic Photography


It has been a while since my last post. Life has been busy with building my website, editing more images and working my day job.

In my last post I talked about exposure and some adventures I have had in trying to teach others about how to get a proper exposure. I finished that post with an image of a double exposure I did for myself portrait. Double exposures can be done a number of different ways, in the camera or afterward. Back when I did that self-portrait the only way to do a double exposure after the images were taken was in the darkroom. Now days the same result can be achieved in Photoshop. In camera double exposures originally happened on film. To do one on purpose a picture would be taken and the film would not be advanced, another image would be taken on top of it.

All the years I have spent in the photofinishing world I have seen many unintentional double exposures. Many times rolls of film were accidentally double exposed because of camera malfunctions where the film would not advance properly. Other times a person would accidentally run a roll of film through their camera, rewind it and then run it again not knowing it already had been exposed. Being a photo-finisher has been a very challenging job. Trying to explain to people why their film was double exposed and having them not believe me was sometimes frustrating and sometimes just hilarious. I’ll never forget the time someone picked up their printed film that had been double exposed and would not believe me when I explained their camera was broken and overlapped the images. This customer claimed I had dropped the roll of film and the images had shuffled on top of each other! Another time a customer told me I ran their roll of film through the processor with someone else’s and that caused the double exposure! But my all time favorite was the time a women dropped off some film and one of the rolls was double exposed. Her images were on the film but there were also images of a tropical vacation. She told me she had never been anywhere tropical and I must have ruined her film. I tried logically explaining that there was no way I could have double exposed her film in the hour in which I had her film. She did not believe me and insisted I had somehow ruined her film. I tried to explain that the whole process of developing film involved running the film through chemicals in total darkness and there was no way scientifically I could have caused the double exposure. She would not believe me. I explained again that the only way her film was double exposed with images she did not recognize was for the film to have been run through a camera twice. I told her the only way I could have done it would to have been once she dropped off her film to put it in my camera and then fly to the tropical paradise and shoot the pictures and then fly back to town and develop her film all within the hour I actually had her film in my possession. She gave a blank stare. So I said, “mam, someone gave you this film and they did not realize they had already taken pictures on it. Has anyone given you film recently?” She thought for a moment and then admitted that a friend had given her a roll of film. I said “show these pictures to your friend and she will tell you those tropical paradise pictures are from one of her vacations.”

Gone are the days of frustrating film moments like that, but digital has it’s own frustrating moments. Try explaining to someone why their images are pixelated. They just don’t seem to understand why a 45KB file won’t make a good 4×6 print. Maybe I’ll address that next time!

Happy Trails!!


Here is another double exposure I did in the darkroom. I took the image of my daughter when she was about 10 years old on black...
Tom's daughter Erica double exposure with leaves

Here is another double exposure I did in the darkroom. I took the image of my daughter when she was about 10 years old on black and white film with this concept in mind. I then arranged the fall leaves and photographed them against a black background in my studio with color film. Then in the darkroom I sandwiched the negatives to achieve the double exposure .

Posted in Articles and tagged double exposure, photography.