Double Exposure Tutorial for Canon 5D Mark III

Double exposure tutorial for the Canon 5D Mark III by Dylan and Sara Photography.

How to do multiple exposures in your camera without photoshop.

Cameras today have many extra functions that are often buried in menus and forgotten. Last year, we bought the 5D Mark III and after a few months we realized that there were some interesting features we had never played with. After figuring out that there was a way to do in-camera double exposures, we immediately started experimenting. At first it was very hit and miss. (We still hadn’t read the manual.)

Sara: One wedding day, I was sitting behind some trees with the bride while guests were being seated for the ceremony. I remembered the neat trick we had recently discovered. I took a few photos and came out with this: fearless photographers award double exposure tutorial sara k byrne

Ever since we posted this image, we’ve been getting messages asking: “How do you do this!?”

Well, here we go. Here is how we do this:

Multiple Exposures: What are they?

Double exposure is a technique that originated with film photography where you would expose the same frame of film twice (or more). Film can only be exposed to light so much before it will stop recording information. So the part of the film that was darker after first exposure will be most receptive to the light from the second click. It’s typically good to underexpose both photos, because you are exposing the “film” or “sensor” to light twice.

Digital cameras that do this: 5D Mark III, EOS-1D X, EOS 6D, Most Nikon DSLRs, Fujifilm X PRO, Fujifilm X100S, Olympus OM-D E-M5, and more!

Some tips for the 5Diii – It almost feels like cheating:

Live View. Whoa. Live View makes these almost too easy. If you are using this camera and get nothing else from this other than “USE LIVE VIEW!” I’ll be happy. I only recently discovered how live view works with multiple exposures… and it is incredible. This allows you to see the base photo with the live preview overlay. Seriously amazing. (I didn’t know this for the first 6 months I took these.. no more need to memorize the base image’s framing!)

Pick your base image. You don’t have to take two consecutive images. WHAAA? Another thing I recently discovered. Canon allows you to select an image as a starting point. If you don’t have a long time to work with the subject you can just snap a few silhouettes and use them later. You can take all your base images (silhouettes or otherwise) and use them later to overlay a second image for a double exposure. As long as they are on your card (unedited RAW and from the same camera model) you can use them.

This camera allows you to save all images (2+ base images and result) in RAW form. This is neat because you can go back and look at your settings to learn what works best for you… or have useable images for more attempts.

I’m not going to go through all the menus step by step here because I go through them in the video tutorial, but I will explain a little about the options.

Func/Ctrl – Use this for most cases, it allows you to pick your base image before shooting.

ContShtng – Use if you want to do sports composites, like if you wanted to shoot someone running or doing a snowboard jump.

Multi-Exposure ctrl: (how/what is composited)

Additive: What I use. This is most similar to the way film records light. Typically need to compensate by underexposing a bit.

Average: Compensates for light and averages it out. Use this if you were taking photos of a wide shot of something moving like a car or a runner.

Bright: Meant for night time, only the bright spots of the images are composited

Dark: The darker parts of the image are combined and the brighter parts are surpressed

The Images

Now clearly you can do this with any images you want, there aren’t rules on what you have to do. However, silhouettes are really fun to start. You can blow out the sky behind the person, and the second image you take is going to fill only the dark areas of the first. Typically, you will need to shoot from a lower perspective in order to achieve this.

Sometimes I want to have more context and facial texture in the subject. If you have directional sunlight position your subject to face the light and slightly underexpose the skin tones. This way the back of their head will darken but the face will have skin texture. Make sure to place the facial line in darker parts of the second image so that you don’t blow out the skin tones and lose the whole face.

You can use anything for the second photo, I like using natural things like trees and flowers. The sky is your friend, use it to your advantage in both the base and overlay images.

Examples:digital double exposure photocanon 5d mark iii double exposure photomultiple exposure digital photojade rose double exposure portland photodouble exposure with pine tree photomelody english double exposure photo

We hope to do more tutorials in the future, if you have something you’d like us to talk about.. let us know 🙂

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  • Anja said:

    Awesome Sara, thank you so much. I've tried this before but always forget to play with it when I'm on a shoot. I need to play some more. Love the Live view suggestion, makes it so much easier.

  • Monica Justesen Photography said:

    Awesome, thanks so much for this!

  • Tim said:

    Wow, pretty amazing! I just thought it was all done in photoshop!

  • Melissa said:

    Does anybody knows if this is also possible with NIKON D800? Image Overlay is possible but is Live View too?

  • Vanessa said:

    Wow. Gorgeous work!

  • Kelsey said:

    These are amazing! I want a new mark III so badly now! Thanks for sharing the awesome tutorial as well.

  • David Stubbs said:

    Great post and tutorial. I'm going to have a go but think double exposure will be a bit of a fad and will look crap in years to come like colour spot. Again, great blog post and superb examples.

  • Kendra said:

    I seriously want to hang these up in my house. Is that weird? I LOVE these pictures!!

    • Jade Rose said:

      I want to do the same!!!

  • Zach Sutton said:

    Great stuff, Sara.

    Nice in depth the compliment the video.

  • Amy short said:

    These are beautiful! Great tutorial- I can't wait to try this out!

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  • Jamie Jones said:

    Love these images!! thanks for the great tutorial, I can't wait to try it:)

  • Chris Byrne said:

    Those are really neat, nicely done Sara! Thought the last one looked especially B.A.

  • Katy Dennison said:

    Oh my gosh, Sara! BRILLIANT! So so beautiful and inspiring.

  • Joaquín Tocornal said:

    Preciosas imágenes Sara, muchas gracias por compartirlas!!

  • Christina Albrigo D'Aloisio said:

    The kids and I have new project! I have only ever done this after the fact and never in camera. The live view will make it so much more fun. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Lauren E. said:

    You guys are so awesome. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  • Kat - RocknRollBride said:

    Love this! I'm going to link to it on my blog this week. thanks so much for sharing!

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  • Calli said:

    I've seen these photos everywhere and I get way excited everytime. Absolutely beautiful

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  • leanne said:

    So gorgeous. I think this is a great example of an old technique made beautiful. Does anyone know if this works with a 7D? My camera is currently being repaired so I can't check :/

    • sarakbyrne said:

      5Diii, 1D, & 6D only :)

  • Iujaz said:

    awesome pictures! was just wondering wether this is canon only. would it work the same way with nikon D800?

  • Matthew said:

    Lovely photos & a great tutorial.

    I've been experimenting with the double exposure option on my Nikon camera & the results can be really beautiful. It's always good to see what other photographers are doing & learn from their techniques though.

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  • UK, Nottingham Wedding Photographers said:

    Had my Mk III's for about a 6 months now and although knew of the feature I have never used it, think you have just inspired me to take a look. Thanks Sara

  • nadine said:

    Ahhhhh,... thanks Sara!!!

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  • Shipra said:

    Awesome! Thank you for sharing this, I've seen your incredible images before and thought it was a PS layering thing. So cool that its all in camera and so great that you're sharing it with us!

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  • Gold Hat Photography said:

    Great tutorial. Only wish double exposures were so well catered for in Nikons. That Live View trick is awesome!

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  • Leah Benedict said:

    These images are lovely. Thanks to your tutorial my husband and I recently experiemented with double exposure with entry level Nikon. The images aren't nearly as beauitful as yours, but we had fun trying it out! httpss://

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  • Wayne Fisk said:

    Fantastic! What are your specific in-camera settings for shooting the Base photo? I have a Canon 5D MK III, and I'm slowly getting it. Can you use a pre-shot texture as the 2nd photo? How would you do that? Or do you have to use Live-view for the 2nd shot? Shooting the silhouette is harder than I thought. Also, some of your examples are,strictly speaking, partial sihouettes The camera settings would be very helpful. Thanks for all of your inspiring work,Sarah!.

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  • Amy Donohue said:

    Wow! Just stumbled upon your site through google+ and this tutorial. I've had this camera for a few months and had not discovered this function yet but you bet I'll be trying it now. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Your images are incredible!

  • Pati Montero said:

    I have not enough words to tell you how much I love your work, specially these series and how deeply grateful I am for this tutorial. It's very kind of you to share your findings. Thanks Sara!

    I did some tests with my Nikon D3100 and although it doesn't have the Live View feature, I enjoyed them very much :)

    Have a good one!

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  • Tim Stubbings said:

    Thanks for a great and easy tutorial Sarah and for being the prompt to look at this function on my 5Diii

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  • Daniel said:

    Amazing! Thank for you the tutorial! :)

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  • Der Linsenbub said:

    Great Tutorial! Awesome beautiful Pictures. In one week i am getting my MK III and can't wait for trying this. Thanks a lot for inspiring!

  • Isa x Diego Fotografía said:

    We never tried before the live view trick. It´s magic. Thanks you so much!!

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  • Ed Graham said:

    Really great work here. Thanks for sharing. I've already capture a couple great multi exposures with my 5DIII thanks to your tutorial here.

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  • B said:

    My camera does not accept the base picture. I get a message "this image cannot be used as the base image...." Can you tell what I'm doing wrong?
    FYI, I have a mark iii.

    • sarakbyrne said:

      make sure it is a full size RAW.

      • B said:

        Thanks for getting back to me.
        It might sound stupid, but how can I make sure of that?

      • B said:

        sorry, never mind my previous msg. I figured that out.
        thx :)

  • bkna said:

    Hi Sara - thanks for sharing your tipps. I was wondering how much PS afterwork are you using on most of the shots? Like copy and paste textures away etc... thanks for your answer..

    • sarakbyrne said:

      None of the images in the tutorial have anything added or removed, outside of my curve adjustments. But its easy to do if you need to :)

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  • Athompson said:

    Love these. How do you get the floating effect in your second to last example with the pine tree coming out the bottom - obviously the overlay is shot upside down with a white sky, but my silhouette has some darkness to the bottom of the frame and is not eliminated by the overlay. (maybe i am underexposing the overlay? would love to learn settings for that! Having fun experimenting! Thanks!

    • sarakbyrne said:

      clear sky above the subjects head and clear sky above the tree.. when one is upside down it makes it blow on both top and bottom :)

  • Janice Cordeiro said:

    Thanks so much for sharing this technique. I have the Mark III and can't wait to give this a try. I love the results. Janice

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  • Gary said:

    Not sure if this function is available anymore on the latest firmware...I have tried following the video, but when switching to live view the overlay feature is no longer there......and when turning back I find that the multiple exposure function is disabled......have just contacted canon support to confirm the changes

    • Gary said: dont actually switch to Live View as in turning the knob to the Video Live View press the Start/Stop button to switch to the Live View mode whilst taking stills

      • sarakbyrne said:


    • sarakbyrne said:

      Make sure you were shooting fullsize RAW.

  • Susie Moreno said:

    It feels like cheating after I remember how much more complicated it was on film...BUT I'm still so going to play with this. Thanks for the easy tutorial. Your work is beautiful!

  • uzma said:

    hi, can i do this with pentax kx ?

  • jimmy patt said:

    will this work with canon 550d & 600d as I have both of these cameras and love the effect it gives

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  • Elle Bruce said:

    Just found your tutorial recently. It's great. It inspired me to try something new with my own images. Thank you. I have re shared it in a blog post (with credit and links back to you).

  • Dwain Christensen said:

    A friend of mine posted the link to this page. I just recently got the 5DMIII and love it. I knew about the multiple exposure feature but never tried it. Thank you for the tutorial. It inspired me to give it a shot.

    Here is the result:

    Thank you and I love your work!

  • simis said:

    Thanks sooo much for sharing this!

  • stephen webb said:

    yes,I love these too.I have made a lot of somewhat similar photos but an entirely different way.I an anxius to see if I can try this with the camera I have.

  • Kevin said:

    Would you mind to share a video of how your composting is done to create such stunning images? its beautiful!

  • John Archer said:

    Fantastic tutorial, thanks for sharing. Inspires you to get out and start experimenting - the opportunities are endless!!

  • Karen Julia said:

    I totally thought this was done in photoshop. Can't wait to try this!! Thanks for the tutorial.

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  • ilario said:

    Hi, nice one!!! I'm Trying with my 6d, but can't work like you with Live view! And can't load previously recorded pic! Do I need upgrade firmware? Do i make mistake somewhere ? Thank's for reply

    • sarakbyrne said:

      Make sure you're on RAW!

      • Ilario said:

        Have test setting in RAW my 6D... doesn't matter which choice, once switch to live view, than double exposure became automatically off. So would be nice that Sara maybe hold one 6D and try it to clarify step by step which is right procedure for it. Maybe, I may think about a kind of firmware to be upgraded too ? I do Double exposures without live view but i agree that live view would be a nice help to create right final result.

  • Dijana said:

    Exactly how does one do this on 6D? I'm confused....

    • sarakbyrne said:

      should be close to above.. the controls are a bit different!

  • Rob said:

    I shot some cool sillouettes, dumped them onto my computer and renamed the raw files during import. now when I put them back onto the card to try some Multiple Exposures, the MKIII doesn't see them - even tried renaming the Raw files. Anyone have any ideas??? thx.

    • sarakbyrne said:

      You'll definitely have issues if you have done anything to the files/card!

  • Ruben Nuñez said:

    Absolutely love this! I'm going to try this for my next shoot! Thank you so much for sharing the technique.

  • Soumen Nath said:

    Many thanks for that video explaining how this is to be done. Love these multiple exposure images. Very creative.

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  • rahul khona said:

    Pure Art!

  • Andy Gaines said:

    interesting stuff! thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly said:

    How flipping awesome!

  • Jennifer said:

    Wow amazing! Now i want to update my gear haha!

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  • Sachin Khona said:

    Man i love these double exposures! You guys are killin' it!

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  • Steven said:

    Hi. I was wondering if I can make it through my fujifilm x100t. Because last time I tried it, it was so hard to do. it as like the porsion/opacity of the first and the second photos are the same. Can you help me? Btw, if I got a chance to visit portland, it would be nice to meeting you guys :)

    • sarakbyrne said:

      We haven't had a chance to shoot the x100t yet, but that sounds roughly the same as the 5d.. just use the opacities to line up the images, not to judge final exposures.

      • Steven said:

        I think x100t has different setting than 5d mark iii. It comes from different manufacturer. My guess is that fuji doesn't have multiple exposure features as many as the canon. It doesn't include darken, average etc. And also i can choose the base image from the photo that I have taken before. But thanks for your help :)

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  • Joe Payne said:

    Great blog post and video. Thanks for sharing!

  • Danielle said:

    Hi there, great tutorial thank you! I love this feature, so now playing around a bit and going to shoot a wedding tomorrow i want to just shoot and maybe play later, sooo I'm having trouble with using an other image. on camera when saying select image for multiple exposure its say no compatible images available. super confused.

  • Yannis Larios | Wedding Photographer said:

    Awesome tutorial.
    Magnificent photography! Thank you Sara

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  • Gabe Santos said:

    This kind of tutorials are really helpful, but I found really sad that just a few digital cameras has multiple exposure, thanks!