Wednesday, May 20, 2015


This is only one of many premises and techniques I share in my book. It is not a new concept for me; I have been doing this since the '80s. Some of the characteristics of Impressionism include: blurring, colorful, minimized detail, sketchy/unfinished, sense of movement, and others.

I apply four different double exposure techniques to my photography to create my impressionistic images. Today I will only showcase one of them. Unfortunately, most digital cameras today do not have a double exposure feature. At the onset of the digital age, digital camera manufacturers did away with double exposure features! Both Canon and Nikon had them in the 80s and 90s. I have my theory as to why they omitted that feature from their designs, but I'll leave that for another discussion. Fortunately for me, Nikon re-introduced my beloved feature around 2007/2008. Now other brands have followed suit.

who love the results as much as I do, often ask me, "What do I do if 
I don't have that feature (and I don't want to spend hours in photo editing software)?" Here is one simple answer for you. It won't look exactly the same, but you can still get those impressionistic-looking images: change your settings until you get both a good exposure and a slow shutter speed--like 1-2 seconds, while hand-holding your camera. Some people are more steady than others, so experiment until you find that right shutter speed "zone" that works for you. Some of my students have tried this and love the results!

Okay, now back to my approach to this. I do use my tripod, in order to keep the same identical perspective and composition. Let me walk you through the steps, then I'll show you some images. Note: I always do this on manual focus--I want total control.

1) I get my composition just the way I want it and do not move from there. Check.
2) Set a wide f/stop, take my subject slightly out of focus, and take a "test" shot. I check
for the right (not "correct") exposure and the degree of blur. I don't want too much blur;
just enough to blur the edges. I'll re-do the shot if necessary. Check.
3) I engage my double exposure feature and set it for 2, i.e., two images. I don't mess with
the bracketing option. I prefer to do that myself.
4) Get the shot (from Step 2). Check my camera screen. If I like it, check. I'm ready for my
second shot.
5) Depending on the subject and what effects I want, I will either not adjust my exposure at
all for my second shot, or adjust it with my exposure compensation dial. If I decide to under-
expose (never overexpose) my second image, it will usually be a -2/3 to a -1. The reason for the underexposure is to ensure that I don't get a washed out, or overexposed final image, which can happen with two exposures on the same "frame."
6) Regardless of what I do at Step 5, if I like what I got, check! If not, I decide what it is I
not like. If the exposure is good, but I don't like the degree of overlap between the two
images, I go back and start at Step 2 and do it again. If I like the results of Step 2, but it
looks a little overexposed, I still go back to Step 2, but only make a change at Step 5 and
maybe under expose the second shot a little more.

To me photography is more art than science. So, like an artist, add a little more "paint" here or there; use a different "brush" if need be, etc.

Are you ready to see what I create when I follow my own guideline? Let's start by looking at what the eyes see.

A beautiful specimen, but man, what an ugly background. It's so ugly that most photographers wouldn't even bother. Herein lies one of my numerous right brain concepts: Don't see with your eyes; see with your imagination. My imagination took me to two different levels. For my first level, I had to seriously alter that ugly background so I could get this.

Nice. Very nice. I was very satisfied with my "studio" shot. To achieve this look, I placed a large piece of flat black (not reflective) material behind these flowers. Yes, I carry around several "props." 

Even though I was very pleased with my second image, I still wanted to create yet a different rendition--an impressionistic rendition, following steps 1-6 above. And so I did.

I shared more than one right brain lesson here: 1) Be an artist first, 2) See with your imagination, 3) Learn to see something before you see it, 4) Make the common uncommon, and 5) Create Impressionism through photography.

Experiment. Don't rely on formulas, histograms, or other "must-do" rules and dogmas. Loosen up. Have fun. Enjoy.