At a recent PSRI meeting, the guest speaker Andre Gallant presented several different techniques he used to create some of his photographs. Some techniques were the results of aspirations for paintings, with which I fully disagree, yet others explored the photographic capture of movement and recording longer passages of time in one frame.
Combining multiple images of the same scene results in a different look. Although Andre achieved this result in-camera using Nikon equipment, the same result can be obtained with any camera and a little extra work. The reward for the extra work is the additional flexibility one can gain during the after capture processing. I will explain a couple of methods for this, and believe it or not, one method will actually capture in-camera multiple images using Canon gear, even a small PowerShot G9. But, before going any further, let me also add a piece of news: The newly announced Canon EOS 5D Mark-III will do in-camera multiple image capture on one frame. Get ready to shell out $3,500 or read the rest of this post and use your existing Canon gear.
The general approach to taking photographs is to “properly expose” the shot, everything looks sharp, with good tones, and color. What if, instead of properly exposing the shot, I deliberately underexpose a series of them and then add them together. That is what in-camera processing does anyway. As a starting point, let’s visualize a scene that requires the following settings for proper exposure: Shutter speed = 1/100; and f-stop = 8. To create what Andre called expressive photography, we need a number of frames captured. If I want to combine 10 frames for that effect, each frame needs one-tenth the normal exposure, meaning 1/1,000 of a second. So, to proceed:
- Measure the proper exposure for the scene
- Turn off autofocus, and use manual exposure setting
- Do not change the f-stop
- Divide the “proper” exposure by the number of frames you would like to combine to arrive at the adjusted shutter speed (in the example above, we moved from 1/100 to 1/1,000 for 10 shot set)
- Do not use a tripod, turn off image stabilization
- Now shoot the number of frames you wanted (in example 10), and shoot a few more anyway
On the left, you see one of my frames out of a total of 8. All the others look the same, so I am not going to clutter the post with more. But you can see how the exposure looks. This series was taken on 7/9/2004. We now need to bring all the frames, even if you have a few extras, into Photoshop as layers. I believe this will also work in Photoshop Elements but I cannot be certain about that.
The easiest is to use either Lightroom or Adobe Bridge and select all the frames you would like to combine into a single composite photograph. Then, right click on any one of them and choose Edit In/Open as Layers in Photoshop. This will push the selected files to Photoshop and add each as a separate layer in the same file.
If you do not use Lightroom or Bridge, you may have to open each as a separate file and drag and drop each one at a time on one of them, which one is not important. When dragging and dropping, use the Shift key to automatically center each layer properly. In the end, you will have a Photoshop document with many layers. A screen capture of my image layers in Photoshop is on the right. Pay attention to the drop-down menu pointed by the red arrow. That is where the blending magic happens.
What we want to produce is some sort of an additive result of all the layers. Starting at the top, click on each layer and then change the blending mode of that layer to “Linear Dodge (Add)”. As you do this you will notice your image getting brighter and brighter. In the end, you will have an image like the one on the right. If you did this in camera, the result would have been the same. The advantage of in-camera processing is that you can see the result in the field, that’s nice. The advantage of doing it in post-processing is that you have many more options you can exercise. Like:
- Use “Screen” or “Lighten” blend modes instead of “Linear Dodge”, different results
- Use a mixture of the blend modes in this group for even more variations
- Change the opacity of each layer to reduce its impact on the total
- Eliminate some layers
- Even selecting all layers, the “Edit/Auto-Align Layers” and choose “Reposition” to have a more orderly placement of the elements still with enough movement in it.
- If you like, you can move any layer by clicking on its thumbnail and then using the arrow keys for small movements or simply drag it around with your mouse on the image.
I have not even mentioned the possibility of using blend modes from the other blend mode blocks you will see.
Now, back to where I said to shoot a few more anyway. You can bring more layers and use them in the same process; there is nothing written in stone here. In fact, the name of the game is experimenting. So, if you had 15 shots instead of the calculated 10, when you add the extra 5 images you will be slightly “overexposing” the end result. That will also give you the option of turning off some layers that may seem too far from the alignment or manifest other kinds of unwanted behavior. You can turn any layer off by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.
This process can be used with the camera movements Andre described, panning up, down, right, left, jiggle, and a quick and short swoosh like Nike (actually, I beg to differ, it is actually an ekiN swoosh). In the next post, I will explain a very different technique that will allow you to capture many images on a single frame using Canon gear, how ’bout that!
Below are some photographs I have produced while exploring the impact of motion and passage of time photographically. Some are long exposures with subject movement, others long exposures with camera movement, you will find multiple image combinations, and a couple of teasers for the next post with a single frame multiple image capture with Canon gear.
And, please do not flatter me by calling these “painterly”; I am proud to be a photographer and do not have brush-envy!