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How to Create a Double Exposure in Lightroom

Are you looking to create a double exposure in Lightroom? What is a double exposure? Let's go through how to create one in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

City Double Exposure Portrait photographer studio shoot

What is double exposure in photography?

Doubl exposure is where you take two images and mix and blend the images. One may overlap the other and create a cool effect.

The History Behind the Double Exposure

The double exposure has been used throughout the early history of film photography to digital photography.

It was once known as ghosting an image created back in the 1860s. Images included ones where there was a subject that posed differently and appeared twice in the same photograph. This was done with the analog method or through a darkroom.

The unique part about the analog method that the digital can now do as well is that everything is conducted through the camera. This means that there may not have been a need to process this further.

The analog method used film stock with low dynamic range. This allowed for the layer of another exposure on top.

Woman looking near camera

The double exposure occurs when one dark exposed image and a lighter exposed image is displayed on top. These two exposures were combined to create a double exposure. The images are layed on top of each other.

The analog method of measuring the darkness of an image or scene was through a light meter. The digital equivalent of measuring the darkness or lightness of the image would be the histogram. These two tools were and still are vital tools for creating these double exposures.

Some artists have even done triple exposures which are just as intriguing and inspiring. Today some artists may create a similar effect with ‘real life’ double exposures using screen projectors or reflection off computer screens. One great example of an artist who currently does this is @moodydarkroomphotos.

Moody Dark Room

Stated once again the double exposure can be created through the layering of separate exposures ( light or dark, dark or light).

Today's technology also has the ability to implement double exposure on our smartphones and personal computers for enhanced detailing and creative endeavors.

Double Exposure Sunse

How to Create a Double Exposure in Camera

What can you do? Where do you start? Depending on if you are doing this in camera or in post production this can also have an effect.

Try both out to understand the differences, challenges and the advantages of each one.

Creating Double Exposures is a fun process. Depending on the system and the model you can have different options for creating the double exposure. Some cameras allow this extra setting to occur only on the photos that are being taken currently. While others such as the Canon Mark III can use previous photos and layer the photographs on top of each other.

When you are creating the double exposure in camera it is helpful to have the outcome in mind and this will affect your composition for the first image. Underexpose the first image and try to find that contrast if there is a brighter part of the image. You will have to try it on your camera to get the first result. The second part is finding another subject matter that really brings out the whole composition.

Creating the double exposure in post production or in lightroom and photoshop is also possible.

Photoshop Double Exposure Tutorial

Creating the double exposure in lightroom

Make sure to edit out any normal exposure and lighting settings in the two images you would like to use. You can lower the exposure on one of the images and heighten the contrast to ensure that you will be able to correctly composite the image onto one another.

The histogram should look something like a mountain on the left and a slope on the right.

Tutorial of Double Exposure

The second image you would like to layer on top of the first will be brighter. This will allow you to blend it with the bottom layer. The histogram for this image should look like a mountain near the middle with slopes on the left and right.Once you finish the exposure settings in lightroom and you indicate a good looking histogram you can either export both images or open images in photoshop.

The latter will take more time and CPU but will allow you to make edits connected with lightroom.

Next create a new document with your two image sizes. For example my image is 5400 x 3400 which is a 4:3 aspect ratio horizontal.

You can set up your new document to match the same height and width and aspect ratio (horizontal) .

Double Exposure Portrait

You can place your two images into the one document with the first dark image on the bottom and the middle range exposure on the top. The dark image histogram should skew left and the middle range exposure’s histogram should be in the center. [ open Window -> Histogram tab]

Now you can go into the layers tab on the left side of photoshop [ open Window -> Layer tab] and change the blending modes. The blending modes in photoshop are numerous and each has a different result on the image.

Photoshop ideas for Double Exposure

Common Blending Modes

Blending modes are created on the software that change the appearance of the image
Normal - The base image, without any changes
Darken - Changes light areas of the image to darker areas. Uses the RGB channels. Doesn’t effect the white or black

Color Burn - This blending mode increases contrast between one area of the image to the next

Linear burn - Like the color burn however decreases brightness of one area of the image.

Lighten - Look at dark areas of the image and lighten them up.

You will see on these two images the use of the normal blending mode and the linear burn.
You can then rotate any of these two images if you need to readjust.

Pearl Lightroom Double Exposure Portrait Double Exposures

Masking out certain Areas

Masking can be a vital tool to make your image stand out. If you only do a portion of the double exposure across the composition this can have a big impact.

Masking tools include the pen tool, marquee tool and more.Common Questions

Double Exposure Pearl

Is this a TRUE double exposure?

Some may dispute that this is not a true double exposure because it is not conducted through the same frame. However The point of a double exposure is to combine two frame together. These two frames are also different exposures.

When you add the two frames explained in this article together you will get two different exposures as well. This creates a valid double exposure.

Double exposures in the past were created in darkrooms and through manipulation of film. Today we can use technology to create this similar effect in Lightroom and Photoshop. This would be a modern day double exposure. It would be invalid to call it a film double exposure or an in camera double exposure.

Double Exposure Portrait Photography

What if my photoshop image turns black and white?

What happens if your image turns black and white when you [place] it in photoshop? How do you resolve this issue?

You can go into the top menu of photoshop and change the mode color from grayscale to RGB.

Essential grayscale is an indicator of the light of the image. This occurs sometimes from the photo document however can be fixed by switching to the Red Green Blue.

What cameras allow Double exposures in camera?


canon cameras with double exposureIn camera multiple exposures are incredibly cool and useful to do. It is good to know if you want to quickly do one during a photoshoot.

Some of the current camers with multiple exposure capabilities include the Canon EOS 90D, EOS 7D Mark II, EOS 6D Mark II, EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS RP. Other cameras such as the Canon EOS R5, EOS R6 and EOS-1D x MARK II offer more settings.


Nikon Z Series allow for the use of double exposures and multiple exposures within the camera. The Nikon Z series allows for the ghosting of the exposure. This allows for an overlay of one exposure over a live exposure.

Nikon Z, D750, Nikon D3500,

Fujifilm X-T2

Pearl Posing for Photograph

The X-T2 is a mirrorless camera that allows for double exposure in camera. If you’re a Fuji film lover look here for some great amazing double exposure images


There are some forums on the internet that explain that most sonys do not have the ability to create double exposures in camera. Instead you can use this tutorial to guide you through the process. You can also use mobile applications.

Double Exposure photography has been around for a while. It is also known as ghosting. You can create some magnificent images with this technique and can be used in more than one case!

Now that you are ready to create don’t forget to share your images #creatorcentre. Also special thanks to Pearl for being our model for this article!!

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