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Making Multiple Exposure Images

My Nikon D300 has a fun feature that allows me to take multiple exposure images.

I recently had some fun with a friend of mine who has a very expressive face.  I decided I wanted to do an image of him battling with his conscience.

Bearded man wrestling with his conscience. (Doug Pruden)

Setting up the Camera

 

Nikon D300 Shooting menu

Select the menu item called, naturally enough, Multiple Exposure.

 

Multiple Exposure Menu

Once inside that menu you will have two settings to adjust:

  1. The first one is the Number of shots you will want to include in the multiple exposure.  You may choose between 2 and 10 exposures.
  2. The second is the Auto gain feature, which needs some explaining.  If the Auto gain is turned on then each exposure taken is scaled relative to the number of exposures taken; for example, if taking 3 exposures then each exposure will have 1/3 of the metered exposure applied so that the total exposure of the final image is not burned out.  This is useful when you have a background that you want to feature in the photo, like a tree, which will not be changing between images.  This ensures that the tree is properly exposed, any image that is in only one of the exposures will appear as a ghostly, under exposed image.  I tend to use this feature with flash against a black background, so I do not want the individual exposures gained down, but want them to have the full metered exposure applied.
  3. Once you have set the menu options, select Done and you are good to go.  The next few shots you take will all be combined into a single image.

Helpful hints

Depending on the kind of image you are exposing, it is important to plan your shot ahead of time for the best results.  In the case of the image of my friend Paul at the front of this article, I wanted to ensure that I had well exposed images of him in three distinct parts of the final frame.  First, I made a set of test images where I adjusted the settings of my off camera flash in iTTL mode.  Once the lighting was adjusted, I had him pose for the centre frame first and made the first exposure.  I then changed my camera position as well as the zoom of my lens (I was using a Sigma f2.8 24-70mm EX DG Macro) and moved the focus point of my camera (set on single area focus) to the left side of the frame.  I recomposed my image making sure that Paul’s new pose was on the left 1/3 of the frame.  I then repeated the procedure to take the third exposure on the right side of the frame.  By having the Auto gain turned off, each image was fully exposed against the black background.

Multiple exposure mode will not function if you are tethered to a laptop as the tether connection wants to download each exposure to the computer.  The camera is smart enough to know that it is tethered and ghosts out the Multiple exposure menu item in this case.

Post processing

For finishing off the image I imported it into Aperture 3.1.2 and made the overall exposure and curves adjustments to get the centre image just the way I wanted it.  I then applied selective image corrections to the left and right exposures by brushing in the Dodge and blur adjustments several times.  I finished off the image with a vignette and a quick run through Portraiture to make the skin tones more flattering.

Naturally, all of this can be reproduced in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements by combining individual exposures and adjusting the layers.  I do not, however, own Photoshop and while I have Elements loaded on my Mac, I use it so rarely that I have to refer to the manual for everything, making it a real pain to use.  Thus, I find that approach far more time consuming for my tastes.  Aperture provides 90%+ of what I require and with plug-ins like the Nik suite and portraiture I find I just do not use the Adobe products.

I was wanting to experiment with the multiple exposure function and be able to show Paul the initial results on the spot.  For my purposes, it was a viable and fun solution for making an artistic interpretation of my friend on the fly.

 

 

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