IN-CAMERA MULTIPLE EXPOSURE
It's back and better than before. When I first switched to digital from film bodies I was disappointed in the fact that in-camera multiple exposures was not a feature included in the various function. With film, you had to calculate what your exposures should be so even if this was the case with the early digitals I thought it would be included. After many years, this is now a feature that is somewhat common in most of the newer bodies, even if it is buried in the various menu options and might not be found right away.
During three journeys for shooting fall color I played with this feature quite a bit on my Canon 5D Mark III and was quite pleased with the results. My tests and conclusions found that for creating some nice abstracts of trees some settings worked better than others. On the Canon 5D MIII in the Multi-expos ctrl menu there are four options: Additive, Average, Bright, and Dark. The following are the details of each:
* Additive - The exposure of each image is added cumulatively. You have to adjust exposure compensation based on the number of images.
* Average - No compensation is needed as the camera determines the proper exposure for each image based on the number of shots taken.
* Bright / Dark - The brightness or darkness of the base image and subsequent images are compared and the bright or dark area will be left the same.
After testing each of these, I have determined the best to use for this type of shooting is to use the Average setting. The next setting to control is the number of exposures. Canon allows for a maximum of 9 images to be combined together but on some Nikon bodies a maximum of 3 images can be set. A few tests showed that 6 was the right number for blending together a nice abstract of the trees in various settings.
Other settings are saving the images either individually or just as the final file. Unlike HDR Mode when a single composite is saved as a jpeg, Multiple Exposure saves the merge file in RAW format. This is great in that it allows for more post production work to be done.
Another setting to select is On: Func/Cntl or On: ContShtng on the Canon. Function and Control priority will shot each image on the review screen after each shot in the sequence while Continuous Shooting priority is designed for continuous shooting of a moving subject. Be aware that when using Function/ Control, continuous shooting speed is greatly reduced. When using Continuous Shooting priority, only the final image will be kept and not each individual image.
The final setting is to shoot continuously or just for one image and then multiple exposure is turned off automatically.
First try at a multi-exposure of some cottonwoods in the Tetons
To create the abstracts, you can either hand-hold the camera or use a tripod. I choose to use the tripod even though hand-holding would work fine as it can cause your horizontal or vertical movement to be offset a tiny bit for each shot. Next, move the camera up just a little bit for each of the following images until all are complete.
Almost all of the images with these examples were done with moving the camera up a little bit each shot but one, shown below, was done with left to right movement and the results were nice but didn't quite have the feel of those with vertical movement. To me, the vertical movement helps accentuate the flow of the tree trunks when they are visible rather than a repetition of them from side to side.
Another way to take advantage of this feature is to do a 2-shot image of flowers or something similar with one shot in sharp focus and one completely out of focus. Lots of images are out there to be seen using this technique. This is what I used toto like to do with film cameras and was disappointed with the feature being gone in digital cameras.
There are lots of other subjects that can be used to create a multiple exposure. In the Canon 5D III, it even allows you to find an image on your card and build a second shot onto it. The best approach to multiple exposure is not to get caught up with the technical aspects of it but to experiment and gain understanding from experience and trial and error.
Two notes of warning when wanting to use the multiple exposure feature - Live View will shut off after the first image is taken and the feature can't be activated if white balance bracketing or HDR is turned on.
Both of these styles can be done using layers in Photoshop, but being able to do it in-camera takes away a good bit of time from sitting at the computer getting everything just right. As it is said, it's better to get it right in the camera than having to work with it later.
Some of the cameras offering this feature include the Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 1D X, Canon 6D, most Nikon DSLRs, Fujifilm X Pro1, Fujifilm X100S, Olympus OM-D E-M5, and more.
Maine Coast with a vertical climb
Maine Coast with horizontal movement
Two-shot multiple exposure with one in focus and one a full blur