Tip & Trick Thursday: Double Exposin’ & Negative Sammiches

I recently came across this really awesome photo submission to a photo blog I love called I Still Shoot Film and I felt I had to share because of all the photos shes posted, this one is my favorite and it was a total accident.

Joshuapb wrote of the photo: “Hello there! so i accidentally(who knows how) put a roll of film through my camera twice, but 5months apart and had put other rolls through in between putting it through again. and this is what came out. hope you like :)”

Canon EF using a 50mm 1.8. on Fuji 100iso colour negative film (@istillshootfilm)

Now, being realistic, the chances of double exposing your film like this (by rolling it through twice, but seperately) and ending up with a great photo are slim, but with certain cameras it is possible to achieve this effect. Certain cameras (holgas, some older SLRs, and TLRs) allow you to take another photo on the same frame without being forced to advance your roll of film, allowing you to double expose your film. However, there is a less risky way to get the same effect which is what I wanted to touch on today. Enter: the negative sandwich.

Negative sandwiches have been used for pretty much as long as people have been using film to print photos. The basic idea is that while printing the photo in the darkroom you can smoosh (smoosh? smush? mash!) two negative frames together in order to achieve a layered effect in your final photo. OR you can expose your photo paper twice with different photos, though this technique requires some skill. The most basic need for using this technique is to get the appearance of clouds in a photo when there were no clouds originally (photoshop analogue style), trust me it sounds deceitful but almost every film photographer I know has done this at some point, including ALL my professors. You use one negative of your desired subject, lets say a pretty barn in a field, and another negative of some pretty clouds in the sky, you sandwich those badboys together and boom, presto chango, you just printed a photo with that beautiful barn you loved oh so much with some nice clouds to compliment it.

Now since I’m somewhat of a purist I like to use negative sandwiches to combine photos that I think would go well together (in my head at least) instead of adding things into my photos that weren’t originally there. I did one for a photo assignment once that was supposed to be “textures” so I went out and shot some gravel but decided it was too boring so I sandwiched it with a shot of some oranges in my backyard and ended up with something I liked.

The Technical Notes: (analogue style, this is the easiest way to do it in the darkroom)

  1. Select your 2 frames for use, clean them both well & place into the negative carrier on top of eachother.
  2. Since you are exposing through not one but two negatives I recommend opening your light as much as possible when testing and if you’re like me and love contrast, go ahead and slap a filter on while you’re at it.
  3. Adjust your exposures and do your thing, remember to burn/dodge (darken concentrated areas/lighten concentrated areas) where you can, since there are 2 different negatives youre bound to get some splotchy/distracting areas because of whatever is in one of the photos.
  4. I ran into some problems printing larger than an 8×10 while doing a negative sandwich, the light just wasn’t bright enough and I ended up having minute long exposures (which is forever in darkroom time) so keep that in mind if printing larger than 8×10.
  5. If you’d like to do it as a double exposure you can play around with exposures on both but make sure to write down all your specifics for each photo and maybe bring some tape so you can mark exactly where your easel is, I always tend to bump into my easel or forget I need it exactly where it is- wasting valuable time trying to place it exactly where I needed it . Keep in mind this method probably takes more precision but you can print larger this way, so that’s the major upside and you can pretty much crop & enlarge while printing instead of having to use the entire frame you’ve selected.

For you digital lovers: (this was relatively easy to do in photoshop, in fact this post was the first time I did a digital “negative sandwich”)

  1. Pick your 2 photos, in my case I ended up picking 3.
  2. I picked a photo and copied the others into the first photo
  3. Create a layer from your background (this allows you to play with the opacity)
  4. Fiddle with the opacity of your layers and the order in which you would like to layer.
  5. Adjust your contrast if you’d like and revel in all your digitalness.

Since I’m still lacking a proper scanner I chose to do a digital negative for demonstration purposes.  I used 2 photos from Berkeley and one from New Zealand and here is what I got:

digital sandwich

Here are the photos I used:

See? Its easy as pie to do in the darkroom or digitally. Its also pretty fun and now I’m going to have to try to incorporate more analogue negative sandwiches into my portfolio. :)

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