Library of Inspiration

Mastering Double Exposure with Christoffer Relander

Christoffer Relander has been working with multiple exposures in his works for a number of years, born in Finland in December 1986, he grew up in the countryside of Ekenäs. It was not until 2008, after he had begun serving in the Finnish Marines that he fell in love with photography. Now taking on his passion full time he focuses on the substantial beauty of nature with experimental techniques.

His latest series ‘’Continuum Plateau - Life as heritage in the Miranda Plateau” is set in Portugal where he explores a forgotten nook in the northeast. He sums it up as so: "Villages crumbling down, large extensions of wild abandoned land, old people getting older and no children to take their place. An entire region doomed to disappear—so might think the unknowing".

The importance of this series lies in Christoffer’s ability to bring two different subjects into one unified expression, illustrating mother nature’s power to take back the land that was once hers, he showcases the biodiversity of the region and its soon to be derelict man made structures alongside one another.

It is noteworthy that in this series Christoffer used his D800E with no altering or layering in any external software, soley using in-camera multiple exposure. Only slightly adjusting contrast, colour and cropping in external software after if needed. He does this both for the challenge and the labor of love in the process. Christoffer believes that his background in graphic design has helped push his ability to seek out the best compositional elements – but it is experience that is king.

We’ve asked Christoffer to share that experience and give us his advice on the best possible process:

Prepping your camera

First things first, is getting your camera into multiple exposure mode. This includes programming the number of shots to feature in your multiple exposure image. Adding this to your bracketing button helps save battery life in the long run.

“As I do large prints of my multiple exposures, I personally prefer using wider depth of field with my aperture at f/8-f/16. For the small seeds in this series I used an aperture of f/38 to get a large enough depth of field. I rarely use an exposure lower than 1/250 if I’m shooting handheld at 70mm in natural light with my AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED.”

Whilst it is difficult to say which format is best to shoot in, Christoffer has made a habit of shooting in RAW format so that it stores more data. “White balance might not look as expected when two exposures with very different colours are merged into one image. Especially if the separate exposures require different white balance settings. This means it might be good to do a compromise in post process to avoid too ‘dirty’ colours.”

In this series, Christoffer used his AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED a lot. His second choice of lens is his PC-E Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D lens. “It is a typical focal length in my work, the sharpness and optic is excellent for 1.5 meter prints.

Where to begin

Christoffer suggests that if you’re a novice with double exposure, it is good to start with two frames. Using something as simple as your own hand against a bright background and clouds on a moody day is a good start. This kind of experimenting will give you a quick understanding on how the exposures blend. Remember, the exposure can only get brighter, therefor an overexposed area will remain overexposed even if you underexpose your next frame. From there on it is all about experimenting and adjusting to what fits your style.

The importance of light

In any form of photography lighting is crucial to achieve a great image. When creating such extensive silhouttes within an image it is no different. A background bathed in natural light is ideal but when the weather does not permit, Christoffer is quick to use a Nikon speedlight or two, paired with a foldable diffuser large enough for full body portraits.

High contrasting light is often a good thing. For nature images, Christoffer usually underexposes the foreground and overexposes the background. When there is overexposure in both multiple exposed frames, the composition becomes more surreal, as the original silhouette gets a new contour or shape.

To sum it all up, here are his top 5 tips to remember:
- Start with 2 exposures to understand how blending works before tackling more.
- Always be experimental.
- Let light guide you. High contrast light is often a good thing.
- Remember, the exposure can only get brighter; therefore an overexposed area will remain overexposed even if you underexpose your next frame.
- When editing, know how the curve tool works. Little enhancements can go a long way.