Friday, 26 April 2013

If you haven't ever had a multiple exposure you can't really call yourself a photographer

by Dale Neill

We're approaching two centuries since Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the world's first pic. And we'e enjoyed just over two decades of Photoshop. But just how long have photographers been manipulating images? The answer is easy - for as long as we've been making photographs. You don't need software to manipulate an image. You can do it right inside your camera (or for that matter inside your darkroom).

Manipulating really means 'changing' the image. So you can change how the image looks dramatically and easily by:

  • changing lenses
  • changing camera height
  • changing the aspect ratio
  • changing the shutter speed
  • changing the aperture
  • putting a filter on your camera
  • moving one metre to the right

In the early days of photography, photographers sometimes made a  mistake of 'double-exposing' an image because they cocked and fired the shutter without winding the film on. I had a student in the professional course in the early 1970s at Mount Lawley Technical College by name of Robert Frith. He approached me one day with a roll of developed black and white 35mm film and a furrowed brow and said 'What';s gone wrong?'.

I saw the problem straight away. 'Robert, you've loaded this film in your camera twice. All your shots are double exposed'
Was Robert worried? No way. his smile beamed and he just said 'Cool'

For the remainder of his Photography course Robert continued to experiment and double expose images. In 2013 Robert Frith is one of Western Australia's most successful and creative architectural and commercial photographers. 
A ten shot multiple exposure shot on a Nikon D700 in Egypt

Multiple exposure is the act of taking two or more images on the one frame. Not all digital cameras allow you to achieve multiple exposures but most of the high end DSLRs allow you to do it. I get far more pleasure manipulating the image in the camera than in Photoshop later. I guess because I like to think I'm more a photographer than a graphic designer or IT expert.

Another photographer who prides himself on his in-camera techniques is New Zealand Landscape photographer Mike Langford.  Mike is not only an outstanding landscape photographer but he's also an outstanding educator and nice guy to boot.

If you haven't ever had a multiple-exposure you can't really call yourself a photographer.

You can learn about multiple exposure techniques in my Advanced UWA Digital Course.

Or if you're feeling adventurous come camping with me under the stars in Outback Western Australia in the Photography and Art Tour of the Pilbara. Email me at for itinerary and details.

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