A few nights ago I attended one of my favourite photography meetup groups – Street Club! The meeting point was just off Piccadilly Circus and the theme for the evening’s photography meetup was.. [drum roll].. Double Exposures and Long Exposures! Like a lot of photographers, I have experimented with Long Exposures/Slow Shutter Speeds but I have never played with my camera’s Multiple Exposure feature.
I have a camera that has a specific multiple exposure function on it. Not all cameras will have this function so please check your camera’s manual to see if your camera is able to do this. I believe there are some apps available for iPhone and Android that can do this also.
If you have wanted to play with multiple exposures, Piccadilly Circus is definitely a great place to start. There are loads of lights, neon signed and passing traffic that you can overlay over people, building or even just textures! Not only that, Piccadilly Circus also has loads of great street performers, dancers, living statues and buskers. So you won’t be struggling to find things to photograph. The thing that I found with overlaying exposures, especially when shooting at night, is to place light areas of one layer over dark areas of another. If you have ever used masks in photoshop you will get this concept. Putting highlights over highlights causes a lot of confusion and a lack of visual detail. Even though I wanted to create an abstract image I also wanted something for the eye to latch onto so that you can make out what both images are.
I also really like putting long exposures with lots of movement over static images. The above image is a great example of this. Unfortunately, my D750 would not allow me to change ISO settings after the first exposure was taken so in many of the images I used a higher ISO, such as ISO640, with a wide aperture for the static images and then to get my Shutter Speed down to around 1/3 sec or 1/4 sec I would have to crank the Aperture right up to around f8 or f11 or sometimes f16 (which is maxed out on my Sigma 35mm f1.4).
You can get some really really cool effects with this technique. I experimented with bright signs over the top of textures. In the image below I saw that the window of a shop had been shattered and it had this amazing neon blue light coming from the window display. I, then, layered the theatre sign over the top. I am using Spot metering on my camera and taking the reading from the bulbs of the signs themselves which means the sign is properly exposed and the rest of the image is very dark. As I mentioned earlier, the dark parts of your exposure become almost transparent when layered over the top of a brighter image.
You can also photograph the same scene but from different perspectives. The below was taken of the man with the iPhone first. I then walk around 10 meters further away from the billboards and took the second image. As the lights on the billboard are so bright and I am exposing for the highlights, the dark or black parts of the image are transparent and show through parts of the man’s coat and backpack.
Below is probably my favourite image from the whole evening. The neon signs are from the Hard Rock Cafe. As before I am using a wide aperture for a faster shutter speed and I am exposing for the bright light of the neon sign. The window display at the Hard Rock Cafe has multiple signs and lights but the vast majority of the image was dark. As I captured the image of the signs I heard the Ambulance coming and only had a few seconds to run over to the road and I wasn’t quick enough to drop my shutter speed for a long exposure, as I wanted a lot more motion blur, however I am still fairly happy with the final image.
Below are a few honourable mentions from my dabblings with multiple exposures!
The second part of the evening was spent playing with slow shutter speeds and long exposures. Now I have used long exposures many times to capture images of streaky stars, blurred waterfalls and even to get that spinning effect on the London Eye to make it look like it’s spinning super fast! But all of those images were taken on a tripod so elements of the image were static. For this evening’s long exposures I was hand holding the camera so it was important to make the motion blur part of the image.
I had lowered my ISO down to ISO100 and kept my aperture around f4-f5.6. This gave me a shutter speed of around 1/2sec – 1/5sec. I tried to shoot a few images with 1 or 1.5 secs but this introduced too much camera shake and it just looked like the images were shaky and poorly taken.
With moving vehicles, you can use a shutter speed of around 1/4sec and as you take the image you track the vehicle with the camera. If you judge it just right you can get parts of the image to be in focus or at least partially in focus but with motion blur throughout the rest of the image. It was this technique that I use for the image above. Although a lot of the image is out of focus or with motion blur there is enough visual detail to tell what the image is of but with the sense of the bus travelling through the image.
You can have a lot of fun with moving the camera around while the shutter is open. A lot of people tend to move the camera either to the side or up and down. You can even walk forwards to give a zoom effect (you need to learn to duck walk though – youtube it if you don’t know what that is) but I thought it might be good to rotate the camera during the shot. It does give an image quite a busy feel however if you can get some elements in focus it can work ok.
Last, but not least, the final technique I played with was to use a shutter speed of 1 or 1.5secs and for the first half a second you keep the camera steady but at the last minute you jolt the camera to the side or up or in any direction really. This means you get elements that are static and fairly focused by then with light trails from the highlights. You can get some very cool effects from it.
So there you have it! Go play around with multiple exposures (if your camera can do it – or get a phone app that lets you do it) and also try long exposures to give your images a sense of motion!
I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for reading to the end! I hope you like my images and I will be back soon with some more pics!