Four Methods of Multiple Exposure

Methods for Multiple Exposure

This article will talk through several ideas of how to expose a film multiple times. In particular my idea is to expose a film three times, each in a different city. 

When exposing a film multiple times you need to find a way not to overexpose it. Film is layered with chemicals which react when light hits them, this chemical reaction is what creates an image. There is a limit to how much light can hit the film before the chemicals are used up. The more times a single film is exposed, the more light is hitting that film, so you begin to loose colour definition and everything becomes too bright. 

In order to compensate when taking multiple exposures, each picture you take must be underexposed or have patches of black in it (in these black or dark parts the chemicals do not react as there is no light). 

Another thing that is vital to remember when exposing a film more than once is that usually once you've wound a film back into the canister the whole length of film is retracted inside, so how do you reload it? You need a film un-picker, which looks like this:

They're usually fairly cheap and available online or sometimes from camera shops. Worth noting as you won't get very far without one!

So we came up with four methods of how to expose a film three times in a way that would hopefully leave the overall frame correctly exposed. See below for details!

Use a combination of a graduated ND filter (a grey tinted filter which, when held in front of the lens, darkens part of the image) and black tape to cover up 2/3 of the frame, leaving the last third clear. Each time the film is shot the order is alternated.
The frame is evenly exposed, there is gradual blending from each shot but they are all individually distinguishable. See illustration below, imagine the lens is behind the square.

Use black tape to cover up 2/3 of the lens each time and fully expose 1/3 of the lens, alternating the order for each shoot.
This way three different scenes should be clearly defined within one image with little blending between them.

No filters or covering up. Shoot the film three times and compensate the exposure by setting the camera ISO higher than the ISO of the film. For example if using a 200 ISO film you would set the camera to 800 ISO. The camera thinks the film has a higher sensitivity and therefore underexposes each shot. Three underexposed shots = one correctly exposed shot (maybe? hopefully). This should give you three overlapping shots.

No filters, covering up or exposure compensation. In each shot make sure your subject is next to something darker than it - roughly 2 stops different. Your subject is correctly exposed but the dark bits are underexposed, leaving blank space on the film for the next exposures to use. This is similar to the third way as it is a form of exposure compensation, but should create images where separate scenes are clearly defined in individual areas as opposed to being overlapped over one another.

Method ONE


Method TWO

Method THREE

Method FOUR

Evaluation of Methods

With these you have to think about the composition a lot more as you couldn’t just have a standard filled frame image, you were just getting a portion of the scene in front of you and so have to select a small subject that’s important. For me I think it’s a bit restricting to use all the time.

Personally I think I’d stick to this way for the most part as I like the unpredictability of the overlapping and think planning it too much kind of takes away the fun a bit. Also most of my favourite photos from the test film were taken using this way.

We expected there to be more separation between the different parts of the image, but it was more similar to the third way. I like the overlapping you get with these images, although again it’s a bit restricting in that you have to think about having blank space in your picture each time. In a situation where we’re going to be visiting three different cities I think I’ll probably want to have more flexibility in the composition.

So the reason for coming up with methods of multiple exposure? I had an idea that involves taking photos in 3 different cities using the same film, so you get a merging of various locations within one scene. See the results here!


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