Double exposure tutorial for the Canon 5D Mark III by Dylan and Sara Photography

How to do multiple exposures in your camera without photoshop.

Cameras today have many extra functions that are often buried in menus and forgotten. Last year, we bought the 5D Mark III and after a few months we realized that there were some interesting features we had never played with. After figuring out that there was a way to do in-camera double exposures, we immediately started experimenting. At first it was very hit and miss. (We still hadn’t read the manual.)

Sara: One wedding day, I was sitting behind some trees with the bride while guests were being seated for the ceremony. I remembered the neat trick we had recently discovered. I took a few photos and came out with this:

Ever since we posted this image, we’ve been getting messages asking: “How do you do this!?”

Multiple Exposures: What are they?

Double exposure is a technique that originated with film photography where you would expose the same frame of film twice (or more). Film can only be exposed to light so much before it will stop recording information. So the part of the film that was darker after first exposure will be most receptive to the light from the second click. It’s typically good to underexpose both photos, because you are exposing the “film” or “sensor” to light twice.

Digital cameras that do this: 5D Mark III, EOS-1D X, EOS 6D, Most Nikon DSLRs, Fujifilm X PRO, Fujifilm X100S, Olympus OM-D E-M5, and more!

Some tips for the 5Diii – It almost feels like cheating:

Live View. Whoa. Live View makes these almost too easy. If you are using this camera and get nothing else from this other than “USE LIVE VIEW!” I’ll be happy. I only recently discovered how live view works with multiple exposures… and it is incredible. This allows you to see the base photo with the live preview overlay. Seriously amazing. (I didn’t know this for the first 6 months I took these.. no more need to memorize the base image’s framing!)

Pick your base image. You don’t have to take two consecutive images. WHAAA? Another thing I recently discovered. Canon allows you to select an image as a starting point. If you don’t have a long time to work with the subject you can just snap a few silhouettes and use them later. You can take all your base images (silhouettes or otherwise) and use them later to overlay a second image for a double exposure. As long as they are on your card (unedited RAW and from the same camera model) you can use them.

This camera allows you to save all images (2+ base images and result) in RAW form. This is neat because you can go back and look at your settings to learn what works best for you… or have useable images for more attempts.

I’m not going to go through all the menus step by step here because I go through them in the video tutorial, but I will explain a little about the options.

Func/Ctrl – Use this for most cases, it allows you to pick your base image before shooting.

ContShtng – Use if you want to do sports composites, like if you wanted to shoot someone running or doing a snowboard jump.

Multi-Exposure ctrl: (how/what is composited)

Additive: What I use. This is most similar to the way film records light. Typically need to compensate by underexposing a bit.

Average: Compensates for light and averages it out. Use this if you were taking photos of a wide shot of something moving like a car or a runner.

Bright: Meant for night time, only the bright spots of the images are composited

Dark: The darker parts of the image are combined and the brighter parts are surpressed

The Images

Now clearly you can do this with any images you want, there aren’t rules on what you have to do. However, silhouettes are really fun to start. You can blow out the sky behind the person, and the second image you take is going to fill only the dark areas of the first. Typically, you will need to shoot from a lower perspective in order to achieve this.

Sometimes I want to have more context and facial texture in the subject. If you have directional sunlight position your subject to face the light and slightly underexpose the skin tones. This way the back of their head will darken but the face will have skin texture. Make sure to place the facial line in darker parts of the second image so that you don’t blow out the skin tones and lose the whole face.

You can use anything for the second photo, I like using natural things like trees and flowers. The sky is your friend, use it to your advantage in both the base and overlay images.




Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials


Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

Beauty Lighting for Stills and Video

Trying New Things I definitely fall into the category of photographers who get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Although I am often hired to shoot a style that my clients see on my website or portfolio, or shoot images for a […]

Click to Watch

Taking Control of Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness

Taking Control of Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness is at the very heart of photography. When you shoot a photo on your camera one of two things happen. Either the camera saves the image as a Raw file or as a Jpeg. The fundamental difference between […]

Read More

Take your best ever Christmas photos

While the packed supermarkets, heaving shopping malls and congested traffic networks can try the patience of even the biggest Christmas fan, there is no doubt that this is a really magical time of year for the family photographer. Here are five ways to get your […]

Read More