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23 November 2013

Multiple exposure nature portraits

Last spring, I bought a set of 3 photography magazines to keep me updated with techniques and latest news on gears in photography. One of the magazines was an issue of Photography Monthly (Issue 146 | April 2013). In pages 49-53, I came across the wonderful multiple exposure portraits of Christoffer Relander (, a Finnish photographer. In the featured photos, Relander combines images of people and trees. I thought to myself back then that I would try it.

But I didn't know how to take multiple exposure images and try as I might I can't find a tutorial to follow. Until a few weeks ago. I was going through various photography tutorials in YouTube when I came across PhotoExtremist's tutorial on multiple exposure nature portraits. Bingo! The multiple exposure portraits in the said tutorial are similar to Relander's. So, I gave it a try. (Note: if you want to try this technique, check that your camera has the option on multiple exposures. I knew beforehand that my Olympus Pens have it.)

There are 2 main steps in taking multiple exposure portrait shots: 1) in-camera using multiple exposure option and 2) post-processing.


PhotoExtremist has a great tutorial on multiple exposures. The steps, which I followed and adapt where possible are as follows:

  • Turn ON the Multiple Exposure option on your camera
  • Turn Auto Gain OFF as it attempts to neutralise the EV, which isn't useful for high-key nature portraits
  • Put your camera in Aperture Priority Mode and select your F number e.g. f4, f5.6, etcetera.
  • Put your camera in Spot Metering Mode
  • For the first shot, centre the Auto-Focus Point and take the picture. The background should be as close to 100% white as possible, e.g. sky behind the person's head.
  • For the second shot, increase Exposure Compensation to around +2 EV (experiment to taste) and take a picture of say, trees with leaves and ensure background is 100% white as well.
  • After the second shot was taken, the camera stack the two shots automatically and show up in your LCD screen. Now you have a multiple exposure photo!


The photo you took earlier might need post-processing to make it even look better. I use the open source editing software called GIMP 2.6 or 2.8 (depending on which home computer I use) to post-process my photos.

Before using GIMP, I converted the RAW file of my image to 16bit TIFF in Olympus Viewer 2. Rob Knight's YouTube video on it is a big help to me.

I used several photo editing techniques in GIMP (I've watched various YouTube videos for these) before coming up with the final picture:
  • 'Clean' the photos:
  • Adjust contrast and tones
  • Convert to black and white (I agree that multiple exposure portraits looks great in black and white)
  • Sharpen using Unsharp Mask

I posted my first decent multiple exposure nature portrait as my first Picture of the Day feature.

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