Eric James Photography | Double Exposures on 35mm Film - Tutorial

Double Exposures on 35mm Film - Tutorial


One of my favorite things to do is shoot double exposures on film.  In this post, I'll explain how it is done with several examples.


There are two main techniques for shooting double exposures with a 35mm film camera.  The first, and the one I use most often, is to take one photo and then take a second photo directly after it without advancing the film between shots.  To do this, I find using a camera with a multiple exposure function built in to be the easiest. The Nikon FE2, Nikon FM3A, and the Pentax LX are the cameras I typically use.  They each have a lever or button that you engage between frames to allow this. This is a fun thing to try if you have multiple scenes in front of you that you want to combine (i.e. a person and background or two images of the same person, etc) and ultimately gives you a bit more control and the opportunity to pre-visualize things a bit.

The other technique is to shoot an entire roll of film, rewind it, reload it, and shoot it again.  This results in images that are a bit more random but can be just as fun.  Just make sure to leave the film leader out when you rewind the film so you can easily reload it, which is easy to do with a camera that has a manual rewind.  To make sure my frames are aligned when I shoot the second round, I simply make a small mark on the film with a Sharpie when I first load the roll for Round 1 and line up the mark in the same spot when I reload it for Round 2.


With that said, you can also reload the film for Round 2 in a completely different camera, which I have tried a few times.  You run the risk of the frames not aligning perfectly but it can still yield some interesting results when they do not.  Example below.


Regardless of which technique you use, the most important thing is to simply under-expose each shot by one stop.  Since the film is getting exposed to light twice, you essentially want to underexpose or darken each shot a tad so the final image is not over-exposed.  I simply shoot in Aperture Priority mode, set the exposure compensation to -1, and let the in-camera meter do it's thing.  


Generally, you will get the best results when shooting the darker of the two subjects first (i.e. a silhouette of a person), followed by the "background" image (i.e. landscape, texture, whatever).


I've included many more examples of mine below and if you're interested, here are a few of my favorite artists also creating some beautiful double exposures on film: Louis Dazy, Edie Sunday, and Hodachrome.


In the end, my best tip is to just experiment.  Embrace the surprises.  The possibilities are endless.  


Big thanks to all of those who helped create these with me.


All images here have been developed and scanned by the good folk at Indie Film Lab.






Ryeska Fajar(non-registered)
Hi Eric! This is a very helpful article! Thanks! But i have one question here. If we're developing the double exposure film ourselves, do we need to develope it as if it's the chosen iso? For example, we're shooting 200 iso film with 400 iso setting. We're developing it as 400 film or not? Thanks in advance Eric
Edward Olive(non-registered)
Great photos thanks
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing all these tips and tricks!
Candice Andrus(non-registered)
You blow me away.
Craig McMurtrie(non-registered)
Wow! You are really good at this. Beautiful work.
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