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Silhouette Double Exposures

Updated: Oct 26, 2023



Double exposures are a fun, creative and original way to express yourself in film. Most film SLRs have a lever that stops the film from advancing while you cock the shutter which allows you to take two pictures on one piece of film: a double exposure! An exciting way to do that is to use silhouettes in the first of the two images of your double exposure. The concept is simple: if the first image has a lot of dark areas, the second image will fill those dark areas, but not the rest. The images in this post were all shot on a roll of expired Kodak Portra 400VC, rated at 160.


Here's a graphic with the idea behind it: the first shot is the silhouette, the second shot your second exposure on the same piece of film, and the last graphic shows the end result.


Here's a guide on how to do that.


1. THE CAMERA

I shoot all my double exposures on my Canon A1. It has a lever beneath the winder; when moved to the left, it lets you cock the shutter without moving the film. In that way you can take two pictures on top of each other. A lot of cameras can do double exposures (some can't), so make sure to check out your model for options.




2. HAVE YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU

I have taken countless images while forgetting to activate the double exposure lever - it's easy to forget it in the heat of the moment. If you are doing your project, take it slow and go through all the steps for each image.


3. THE SILHOUETTES

In this project I first took a photo of some of my family members. I stood them in a door opening with the shadowed side of their face towards the camera and the bright outside light around them in the background of the shot. Don't use your flash; let it be dark and underexposed!

4. TEXTURES, DETAILS, ANYTHING!

For your second photo, shoot anything you want: flowers, stones, wood textures, anything! The goal is that the second image will fill in the shadows of the first, just like you see in the examples.


Part of the orginal sequence on my roll

5. ANOTHER EXAMPLE

I photographed a lamp post in a parking lot and kept the sun right behind the top of the light. It made the post into a silhouette. For the second (double exposed) image I shot some flowers.


It's important to find a bright background behind the silhouette for this technique to work well.

6. FIND DARK OBJECTS

There are plenty of dark or even black objects around us; here's a one-way street sign. The same idea applies, the first image is the sign, the second will fill in just the black parts.


Hopefully this will inspire you to give this wonderful technique a try - it's fun and surprising and it makes for a great print on the wall! Feel free to ask for advice when you are in the shop or drop me a line!




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