June 18, 2013

Photography Trend: Double Exposure Portraits

Whether they are created within the camera or by using photo editing software such as Photoshop, multiple exposure photography can have some very cool and interesting effects. Double exposure portraiture in particular seems to have been cropping up a lot in the past couple years and with increasing frequency. When I'm browsing various photographers on Flickr, I feel it's no longer unusual to see at least one of these portraits among an artist's work. So, here I've gathered several artists who have created their own versions of this popular portrait style. If you are interested in the technique yourself, check out Aneta Ivanova and Sarah K. Byrne's work below to find their tutorials.

Dan Mountford, early 2010-late 2011, created in camera
Mountford's work is the earliest dated double exposure portrait photography I could find. That doesn't mean of course that he started the trend, but it's worth noting nonetheless. What I love about this set is the subtle transitions between portrait and architecture, creating a seamlessly beautiful image.

The Gentleman Amateur on Flickr, October 2011, various polaroids
Rather than using a flat background like Mountford's work above (and many of the other sets below), which leaves the imagery mainly within the confines of the person's head or body, The Gentleman Amateur superimposes portraits of people within a full landscape. Particularly in the two images on the right, little detail is included of the person other than their silhouette which is darkened against the natural background.

Christoffer Relander, We Are Nature, 2012, created in camera using using a Nikon D700
We and nature are one and the same thing, that is what Relander is saying in this series. The people in these portraits flow in and out of the leaves and ferns in a way that makes is difficult to discern where one ends and the other begins.

Aneta Ivanova, July 2012, shot with digital camera and combined later in photo editing software
Cityscapes and natures scenes pervade Ivanova's black and white portraits. My favorite is the right picture in the middle row. I find particularly striking the way that the darkness of the building and face end abruptly by the set of straight, angled lines, leading to a white sky filled with what looks like birds.

Ivanova has shared how she creates her portraits on her Facebook page:

Miguel Angel Gonzalez Morales, November 2012, shot with a Conan EOS Digital Rebel S
For the most part, Morales' portraits show little visual information of the person, favoring the landscape and colors of scenes behind to fill the silhouette. There is though bits of shadow and details left among the face and along the neck. This difference draws the eyes towards the face, revealing a bit of a melancholy calm in each portrait.

Ryan James Caruthers, January 2013, shot with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel SX
While the two portraits on the right are lovely enough, they are very similar to many of the other portraits I've shown throughout this post. That image on the left though uses the double exposure to combine two facial profiles, which look to be the same person. I would love to see Caruthers expand upon this idea of two portraits within one.

Alberto Seveso, February 2013
You may have noticed a common theme so far in which most of these photos involve some kind of nature or architectural imagery within the portraits. Seveso makes this trend his own by using swirls of multi-colored ink where the model's hair should be.

Daniel Barreto, March 2013
Cityscapes. Barreto uses the city lights from night exposures to bring some interesting colors and shapes to these portraits.

Sarah K. Byrne, April 2013
In the top left photo, Byrne has eliminated all traces of shadow and depth in the features of the portrait in favor of a flat silhouette. Notice though how the shape of the face and shoulders transitions to the shape of the green ferns at the bottom. This transition is similar to Dan Mountford's work at the top of this post, and is also used in the two bottom portraits; except with these, details and shadows of the subject's face are left intact.
Also, check out her tutorial of how to create such images within a digital camera

Jon Duenas, 2013, manually in camera
I love the way that pale space runs over the subject's eyes like a mask in the top left photo. Other than that, while lovely, I find these images to be a bit of a conglomeration of some of the styles shown above, with nothing particularly unique to set them apart.


  1. WOW! This is so inspiring! Nice Post!

  2. I've seen a couple of people insert geometrical shapes onto landscapes with a different exposure. Any idea on how to replicate this type of multi-exposure photography?

    1. I would assume the multi exposure photography is one exposure a texture or landscape or something, and one exposure a silhouette. Maybe to insert a geometrical shape into the landscape you could take one exposure of the landscape and one exposure of the silhouette

  3. Great post for sure! The link for Sarah Byrne's tutorial didn't work for me. So if anyone is having that problem, I've included it here...... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lcu8SdcsYnY

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