Last week, DigiKnow looked at zoom burst and painting with light. We continue this week with ghosting and double exposure. These techniques require a camera that allows you to set the shutter speed and manual focus (compact/bridge or SLR).

Using long exposures (shutter speeds) requires the use of a tripod and either a self-timer or remote shutter release (to reduce the amount of camera shake when the shutter is released).

Again, these techniques use Manual Focus (MF) and are used in dull/dark lighting conditions with lower ISO settings. Remember, when Shutter Priority (S or TV) is used, it’s a semi-automatic mode and the camera compensates the F-number for the correct exposure under the given lighting conditions.

Before you set out to use these techniques, think about what you would like to achieve. Complete a certain amount of ideas generation, research and think through the steps you need to complete and the camera settings/lighting conditions you need to use.

Where might you use ghosting? Where might you use double exposure? And why?


The purpose of this technique is to create a ghost or a number of ghosts of the same person. When you take a photo at 1/125, everything is in the photo for the complete exposure time, so everything in the frame is solid.

Using Shutter Priority (S or Tv on the mode dial), dial in 5″ (5 seconds). Frame the scene and manually focus on the subject (using a tripod).

Remember to use duller lighting conditions, i.e., around dusk.

When you experiment with longer exposures, have a person stand still for half the exposure time, then walk out of frame. What happens?

The result should be a semi-transparent person (ghost) as they occupied the frame for half the exposure. That person is then half-solid (semi-transparent). Experiment with the length of time the person stands still compared to the exposure time and you’ll get either a more solid/faint ghost.

In the example below, you can see semi-transparency on the darker items of clothing. Lighter items of clothing absorb light. Avoid lighter items of clothing.

Credit: Daria Casement - a place I no longer walk
Credit: Daria Casement – a place I no longer walk

Where could this technique be used?

To create atmosphere. Examples would be a chair with a semi-transparent person whom once occupied it, or a lost loved one with their family. It can create a visual representation of loss or could be interpreted as memories, such as the image above.

This can be done in two ways.

The first method is in-camera as an effect (long exposures to create ghosting). If using single exposures, this takes planning and the right conditions.

The second method is using post-production techniques and taking two images of the scene with and without the person, then merging them with one image being 50% transparent. This technique can use faster shutter speeds and a tripod. Lighting conditions are less of a consideration.

Double exposure

Double exposures (or multiple exposures) were first used in the 1860’s when photographers realized they could make duplicate portraits of the same person in one frame, thus giving them a ‘twin’.

Credit: Pedro Beja, double exposure
Credit: Pedro Beja, double exposure

Some film cameras had a wind on handle and if the film wasn’t wound on after image capture, a double exposure resulted. Some photographers used this as a technique.

Double exposures were also possible in film photography by shooting a reel of film and re-shooting it before processing, thus capturing two images in the same frame.

Credit: Ash Cork, double exposure
Credit: Ash Cork, double exposure

To create a similar effect as the double exposure above using digital, it involves two separate images and editing software. It’s a different method of achieving a double exposure and won’t be covered in this post.

In digital photography, we can’t re-shoot a reel after image capture but we can get creative using long exposures and the right lighting conditions to create digital double (or multiple) exposures with subjects in the studio.

This is best done in a darkened studio set up with the camera on a tripod.

Using Shutter Priority, set the camera to a long exposure, i.e., 30″ and manually focus on the subject before turning the lights off. Remember to use lower ISO settings. Have someone pose several times and use a flash gun to illuminate each pose until the 30″ exposure time is up.

The result will be a multiple exposure. The person looks reasonably solid where light has illuminated them. The image below used manual focus, a 20″ exposure, lower ISO setting and a flash gun.

Credit: Daria Casement
Credit: Daria Casement

This week, we looked at ghosting and double exposures. These techniques use slow shutters, manual focus and tripods to keep the camera steady.

Both techniques require planning and experimentation, don’t be afraid to try different settings/lighting conditions and see how the result changes. Subjects move in both techniques whilst the camera does not.

Why not have a go and tweet your results using the hashtags #MDBSelearnghosting and/or #MDBSelearndoubleexposure.

Next week

Next week, DigiKnow looks at another two shutter techniques: panning (background or motion blur) and blurring moving subjects. We look forward to you joining us then. Don’t forget to join us on twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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