In-camera multiple exposure for botanical photography

On a weekend back in March, I had only a few hours to shoot, and it happened to be windy and sunny.

When conditions are not good for the kind of photography I favor, I resort to two techniques I do not normally employ: ICM (intentional camera movement) and/or ME (multiple exposure).

Last year, I posted a few photos using ICM, ICM Photography at North Table Mountain, Casual ICM photography, and A Study in ICM photography. Although I like that technique when I go to the ocean, I prefer to use ME for botanicals.

My Nikon Z50, a mirrorless camera, has a built-in multiple exposure function that can be accessed using the shooting menu. It allows me to pre-set the number of shots in a sequence, and preview the final picture in the live view. This video shows how to do it in the z5, a more expensive, full-frame version of my camera.

I took the feature photograph in three shots, with the lens (a 50 mm 1.8) wide open. A fast lens is necessary if you want to separate the subject from the background. I focused on the center of the flower, pressed the shutter, then moved the camera on to another flower. The blend mode I used was “average”. It turned out to be a good solution for getting all flowers in focus, and a blurred background, all in the same time.

I am quite pleased with the final result, and I am looking forward to exploring this technique more consistently this spring.

How about you, do you employ multiple exposure in your photography and, if so, do you do it in camera or in post-processing?

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Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

18 thoughts on “In-camera multiple exposure for botanical photography

  1. The only in-camera multiple exposures I’ve done are three taken in very quick succession at differing exposures (one under, one average, and one over) so that software can combine the three into a high-dynamic-range (HDR) image. I just checked the manual for my latest camera and found it does allow for in-camera multiple exposures and even offers a preview of the combined version. Even so, it seems combining images on a computer after the fact offers a lot more flexibility, given the huge number of choices available in Photoshop for blending layers.

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    1. You are correct. I have the camera save the original raw photos in case I want to do that later, but if I like the one in camera, I don’t bother. It is more fun foe me to do it in the field.

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  2. I’d never heard of being able to use multiple exposures. A little exploration revealed the reason: none of the Canon Rebel line cameras (I have the T6s) have that capability. When faced with sunny and windy, I usually use one of the older techniques: patience!

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      1. There is somewhat equivalent software for free. https://lenscraft.co.uk has a lot of resources about software for post-processing, if you ever become interested in deepening your post-processing skills while not spending too much money. I have a free Adobe subscription because I submit to their stock photography database.

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  3. Kudos to Nikon for keeping this alive over the years! I started ME with their D200 and it really opened up creative possibilities for me. Back then, you did not see the image ghost to build on, but you did get a raw file on the finished creation. (as opposed to full raw files of each shot and a jpg final in today’s cameras)
    Long exposures within the ME creation process is like incorporating a layer of wet paint that can be ICM manipulated (smeared, dragged, streaked, blended) as part of the composition.
    It’s fun, challenging and never repeatable.

    That being said. I have no qualms making processed manipulations. The process is very boring, but sometimes you “see” something that needs to be made.

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    1. I have not done enough of it in post-processing, but I agree that it’s boring, unrepeatable and a lot of work. I did not know that in camera ME goes as far back in the Nikon as the D200. You are a master in combining layers, I feel like a toddler walking my first steps. It would help if I concentrated on it for, lets’ say, one year!

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  4. Interesting – I had a Canon for many years and I think there was a way to do this, but it was never something I did. Now with the Sony, I’m not even sure it is a feature. However, don’t you get bleed through of the background in the three flowers? I thought they looked a little less vibrant than I expected and I think that might be the case that you see the background through them?
    I guess it could be done in post processing, but I haven’t really done that either! Composited things together, but not several versions of the same thing unless it was a really boring stock photo where I didn’t have enough blocks or coins to really tell the story! Then it was the pen tool and copy and paste!

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    1. The “bleeding through” the background is an expected effect of multiple exposure, and the desirable one as well. If you do not like the effect, then ME is not for you. I like to combine it with textures, like a wall or bark of a tree. In PS layers, you would have more control of the blending mode and transparency of each layer.

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  5. This came out really well! I do have the capability in my Canon and do use it from time to time. But you reminded me that I should try it more often. It’s an interesting technique that I think can enhance creativity. And there is a certain plus to not being able to completely control the result. Sort of like the analog days. Thanks fr reminding us about this!

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