Multiple Exposure – Additive Mode

During my initial forays into Multiple Exposure (ME) I could not see any use for Additive Mode. If you have never heard of this then I congratulate you at not being as immersed with ME as I am. I bought a Fuji X-T4 just so I could have access to the four modes that more advanced digital cameras have, to understand what they were and explore their use.

Now 2 years, 1 self-created online course and 1 online gallery exhibition later, I am still discovering some of its mysteries. So this little blog post will share what I have learnt to date about Additive Mode and invite you to follow me down the rabbit hole!

Here’s what Fuji say about Additive Mode, “The camera adds the exposures together. You may need to lower exposure compensation depending on the number of shots.”. The important thing to note here is that it ‘adds the exposures together’, so with each added layered exposure the final photo will get brighter. That is why Fuji recommend lowering the exposure compensation.

When I first wrote about what I had found I commented, “This mode adds each frame on top of the next, in a kind of light accumulation process. It is possible that if you used this on a sunny day that by the time you had added nine images to one exposure you would just be left with a white rectangle. I have not yet explored its creative possibilities, as the other modes have been calling to me. But maybe its limitations would be something that could create unexpected possibilities.” This post is all about those unexpected possibilities.

But first let’s just pause and recap on the other 3 modes that are available of advanced digital cameras from Fuji, Canon and Nikon.

Average – This mode layers each image on top of the next, averaging the opacity, to create a balanced exposure. This is the standard mode for digital exposure and is available on older digital cameras.

Bright – This mode preserves the brighter elements of each image. For example, if your first image was of a silhouette or shadow, the second if brighter could layer the brighter elements over the areas of darker exposure from the first image.

Dark – This mode does the opposite to Bright mode. It preserves the darker elements of each image. Where there is light, there can be dark! Darker pixels are preserved over brighter ones.

Additive Mode’s Unexpected Possibilities

What Additive Mode is supposed to do is replicate how a film camera added one exposure to the last if you didn’t wind the film on. It does do that. The final photo gets brighter the more frames you add. Any final photo with 3 or more combined exposures will result in over exposed sections if you are not mindful about where the brighter sections are. However, if you are careful about where the dark pixels are and use them to place your brighter pixels for the next exposure, you will replicate that old film double exposure look.

However (and it is a big however) something else is going on too. Within the over exposed elements of a final exposure (usually with 3 or more layered exposures) something strange happens to the colours. This is only revealed after you rescue the highlights in Lightroom or similar software. Initially, they just appear white and overblown.

As you can see above and below, after you have pulled back the highlights, sky blue, pink and yellow emerge. Initially I thought that the blue was to do with the sky being present in a frame or two. But the two photos either side of this text are just of a wall – all of the layers are either part of a wall or a tree trunk, no sky.

My working theory is that there is something going on with the white balance algorithm during the in-camera processing. So, with that in mind I have started experimenting with my own white balance choices on each exposure. The next two photo are Additive Mode photos of 3 exposures after the highlights have been rescued in Lightroom. The first photo uses red and purple extreme white balance choices and as you can see the blue has disappeared. The second photo was created at the same location and has no white balance changes. The blue, yellow and pinks are all present.

When I choose bluer extreme white balance settings the pink almost disappears. When I choose blue and purple extreme white balance settings pink dominates.

In summary, I don’t know why these colour shifts happen, but knowing what happens to the final photo is the first thing to be aware of. I will continue to experiment. I don’t know what purpose the photos I create serve, yet! But the experimentation is interesting and I like some of my creations. And that is the main point. You only have to please yourself. Sometimes a purpose or reason for your photographic creations is revealed in time. A period of settling and reflection may lead to greater knowledge or it may not! Meanwhile, I will continue my exploration.

I should also mention that all of the wall related photos in this post were created whilst listening to KIWANUKA by Michael Kiwanuka. When I use music as a stimulating sense, I just let the music wash over me, not paying close attention to the lyrics. However, during the creation of the wall photos I did notice that the lyrics were of urban life.

If by any chance this post inspires you to experiment, do let me know how you get on. I would love to know if Canon and Nikon cameras have similar colour shifts in their Additive Modes.

Happy creating!

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