How to create Double Exposure images

Double Exposure images have been around since the dawn of photography. In the days of film, this effect was achieved by opening the camera shutter more than once, exposing the film multiple times to different images. With the advancements digital photography, we have a lot more freedom and can create similar effects way after taking the initial photos.

I saw that my brother had started to experiment with this technique last month and has uploaded a few experiments on his flickr site.

An example of one of my brothers Double Exposure experiments.

An example of one of my brothers Double Exposure experiments.

I loved the way these images looked and felt compelled to have a go myself. I used the free photo editing software, Gimp, and picked a few photographs I had taken for previous projects to experiment with. I was surprised by how simple it was to create the effect. Below are a few of my favourites.

Creating this effect yourself can be very easy and does not require extensive knowledge in digital photo-editing software. All you really need is a computer, some basic photo-editing software (Gimp 2.8 is free!), some good photos, and you’re ready to go.

This effect can be achieved by following these 7 simple steps:


Choose the two images you want to combine together to create the double exposure effect. Remember, one image will act as the background to the other so try to pick two images that you think will work well together. in the example below I have chosen a photo of myself to use as the feature image and a landscape of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos Courtyard in Lisbon I took as my background. (To see more photos from my time in Lisbon, click here).

*Note: It is important that your ‘feature’ image has a plain white background. If it doesn’t then make sure you use the cutting tool and place it on a white background before continuing to step two.


Open the ‘feature’ image in Gimp and adjust the contrast levels by clicking  Colours>Curves. You want to make sure that the image has strong shadows and highlights to achieve the best possible results for this effect.


Add your background image to the project as a separate layer (making sure it’s layered above your feature image) and use the move, and scale tools to position it so it completely covers your feature image.Step Three

*Note: when using the scale tool make sure you link the aspect ratios (by clicking the chain icon shown below) before you change the size otherwise you will distort you image. Scale image


Make sure the background image is selected on the layers menu (top right corner) and change the mode to ‘Lighten Only’. You should now be able to see your ‘feature’ image appear through your background image like the example shown below.Step Four


Bring the Opacity level of the Background image down to around 50% to show more detail of the feature image.

Step Five


Right click on you background layer and select ‘Duplicate Layer’. A new layer exactly the same as the old background layer should appear at the top of the Layers menu. Select the new layer and change the mode to ‘Darken Only’ and bring the opacity down even further to around 15%. You want to try to have the background image only slightly visible in the white areas of the picture like shown below. Step six


Export your image in the your chosen format (I recommend PNG or Jpeg.) And there you have it! your very own Double Exposure image. I was amazed by how simple this effect is to achieve and how stunning the results are. Why not have a go yourself. If you do not own photo editing software then follow the link to download the latest version of Gimp and get started today! Exposure test 3

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One response to “How to create Double Exposure images

  1. Pingback: Double Exposure in film. | James McCaughley·

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