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!

Playing with Multiple Exposure

Playing is an essential part of creativity and Multiple Exposure is certainly a creative technique. However, when you’re developing your abilities at a new skill you may forget to play around and have fun. If you’re anything like me, you may be more concerned with finding out what you should do and doing it right.

When we were kids, and before we got too indoctrinated by school routine, we learnt a lot about the world by playing. It was our go to mode. And it worked, look at you now! So give yourself permission to play. To have fun. To make mistakes, learn from them and try new things out.

That all said, let’s look at the idea of playing to learn a new skill in action. As you may know, I have been developing and honing my skills in Multiple Exposure over the last year. Having a project, with an intention to publish a gallery of photos that represented my feelings during the pandemic, has given my learning a focus. (See Pandemia here).

However, that intention has also made me purposeful and serious. Great qualities sure, but I didn’t always remember to have fun. However, I did start with fun! This example below is one of a series of photos I created when playing with extreme white balances, a defocussed lens at a wide aperture and 3 of 4 combined exposures in Dark mode. (If some of this information is new to you, but you are curious take a look at my online course A Creative Guide to Multiple Exposure and ICM).

Multiple exposure

Yes, that is a sofa, in the sunlight that was pouring in through my south facing lounge window. I got all excited when I saw that this kind of creation was possible in camera! I played about with the technique for a while, exhausted its initial possibilities and then moved back to serious practice. Having learnt how to use this method I occasionally revisited it, applying it to different scenes to see what could be created.

Most of the time over the last year I have stuck to using two of the four Multiple Exposure modes that my Fuji X-T4 has available – Bright and Dark. These seemed to provide the most interesting results. I found that the Average mode was a little uninspiring, whereas the Additive mode was just an explosion of light that didn’t seem to be practical. And then I discovered a trick that opened up a whole world of possibility. The overexposed highlights, created when using the Additive mode, when rescued in Lightroom revealed some magic. Here’s a one of the first single exposures of the scene, three of which were combined in camera to create the ‘Before LR’ version and then the ‘After LR’ to demonstrate.

Original scene – first exposure
Additive Multiple Exposure Mode
Before LR
Additive Multiple Exposure Mode
After LR

As you can see within the highlights sky blue, pink and yellow features were revealed. Also the colours were imprinted on the pattern of the tree’s branches. Having discovered this on my PC I then went out to deliberately play with this method. Initially, I kept to woodland and park scenes of other bare branches. Then I noticed that I was just repeating the same subjects and started to play with other possibilities. Here is my most recent favourite, created on a sunny, windy day gazing into a pond. Again it is just three combined exposures, using the Additive mode, in camera, plus some post production in Lightroom.

Drowning in Dreams

There is room for more play! There is always more room. More subjects and scenes to play with. More technical choices to combine with the technique. I have just started to introduce some extreme white balance choices to the mix, just to see what will happen to those blues, pinks and yellows. It’s still fun, and I’m sure there will be more exciting creations. But most of all, I know that I am honing my skills, enjoying the process and creating some photos that I love. And after all isn’t that why you are a photographer?

Multiple Exposure Online Course

Over the last two years I have been exploring the ability of Multiple Exposure and Intentional Camera Movement photography to convey my emotional landscape and the photo that illustrates this post above is my favourite from this week’s experiments. I’ll explain.

Recent government advice in the UK to cope with Covid-19 has varied by country. I live in Wales and the guidance here has been more cautious than in England. This discrepancy has caused some confusion, probably because much of our media is anglo-centric. People have started being more expansive in their behaviour, but meanwhile those like me who are shielding are still advised to stay in as much as possible. This has caused conflicting feelings in my locked down mind. Primarily the desire to do more, to socialise and see my friends in a ‘normal’ manner, versus the need to continue shielding. My photo intends to convey these conflicting emotions. Does it work for you?

The photo was created in camera using Multiple Exposure (ME), dark mode and there are three exposures each taken on a 1 sec shutter speed with some small intentional camera movement (ICM). If you are interested in learning more about these techniques in a short online course do click on the invitation below so that I can later contact you with more guidance. There is no commitment at this stage, it is just for me to gauge interest.

If you would like to see a small collection of my recent ME and ICM experiments click here.


Exploring Multiple Exposure

A few years ago I started experimenting with multi-exposure (more about this technique here) – the art of combining several images in one exposure in camera. A year or so in to my exploration I lost interest as my camera could only combine two images as a maximum, in any one exposure, and it simply layered one on top of the other. Recently, I upgraded my camera and the new Fuji X-T4 has the ability to combine up to nine images in one exposure, and has four alternate ways of combining these images. The exploration is back on!

The key question at this point is why would you want to do this? The answer for me is that it opens up the possibility of creating images that can document a place, experience or emotion in a personal, abstract and creative manner. I am also fascinated to compare and combine this with ICM – intentional camera movement. These techniques are not hugely popular, they create photos that can be ethereal, intriguing, emotive and abstract. It is these very qualities that draw me to them and suggest to me the possibility of a personal project. Something I am considering at present.

Meanwhile, practice and experimentation are required to investigate the limitations and possibilities of the techniques. I have learnt a few things so far which I will summarise, but first I wanted to thank my teachers; Doug Chinnery, Valda Bailey and of course Chris Friel. Doug and Valda have worked together to produce some great videos that explore and explain these techniques; they are detailed and generate plenty of possibility. Chris has been producing fabulous work for many years and is worthy of your investigation.


The photo above was created during the springtime explosion of blooms at Clyne Gardens in Swansea. My intention was to create some photos that were inspired by nature’s colours and beauty, and also echoed how such beauty can make you feel. The techniques I used were ME in dark blend mode, creative use of white balance, creative framing investigation, defocussing the lens and three or four layered exposures. Let’s look at some of those choices.

There are four blend modes available on my Fuji, something that is replicated on some Canon and Nikon cameras; they are Additive, Average, Bright and Dark.

Additive – 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.

Average – This mode layers each image on top of the next, averaging the opacity. This is the standard mode for digital exposure and it is the mode I used when I had the Fuji X-T2, as it was the only choice. Combined with ICM, defocussing or creative use of the white balance it has possibilities.

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. This is similar to how a film camera used to capture a multiple exposure. Here is an example.

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! This is the mode I have used most so far in combination with creative use of white balance.

White Balance – All digital cameras give you a level of control over the white balance. The default position is to be in Auto. In this setting the camera tries to produce whites that replicate how you see white light. Of course, your eyes work differently to a camera. They work with our brain to self correct what we know to be white, to look white, even if it is really carrying another hue. For example: dusk light has a blue hue. You don’t notice this, but the camera does. The white balance can then correct this to match how you see. Taking control of the white balance allows you to tell the camera what hue the whites should have, affecting every colour in the frame. Camera manufacturers have different ways of allowing you to influence this. Some require you to know the Kelvin values of each colour. Others have a map of hues that you can pick from. My Fuji has the latter, which makes it dead easy. My experimentation so far has followed Chris Friel’s advice – to use extreme choices.

I have much work to do. I am learning how my white balance choices work with the ME blend modes and the colours of the objects in the frame. I have also learnt that playing with the lens focus can produce interesting softer shapes and patterns. These combinations of blend mode, white balance and lens focus have much possibility and will, I am certain, be used along with ICM to produce an interesting body of work very soon. I the meantime, here are a few of my favourites from the visit to Clyne Gardens.

ME – Multiple Exposure

ME or Multiple exposure is as old as photography. Back in film days it often happened by accident when you forgot to wind on after taking a shot, then the second image would be superimposed on the first. It is also something that I have experimented with in the past using a Holga camera – a medium format film toy camera. The image below was created in the cold Winter of 2011, and was created from three consecutive exposures.


Digital ME

When I owned a Canon 5D II I had hoped to be able to create digital versions of the technique, but Canon didn’t introduce the feature until the mark III was released.

This week I have been editing my Mindful Photography book (again) and rediscovered the art of Chris Friel a creative genius with ME and ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). He uses a Canon 5D III and is  self-effacing about his intriguing creations.

It was reading about his technical choices that reminded me that my Fuji X-T2 might have the facility to create ME photos. I checked and it does, although there are limitations with its use. Only two images can be combined in camera, whereas the Canons can combine many more.

I also noted in Chris’s generous advice that he uses many extreme settings in camera and tries to avoid doing much post editing work, only doing minor adjustments in Lightroom. This appealed to me. I like to work as much in camera as possible and it seemed to me that ME had the possibility of creating work that was an emotional response to found scenes, rather than documenting them.

A Mindful Approach

Of course being a photographer who is practicing living a mindful life I have started to consider a mindful approach to experimenting with ME and have come up with the following 7 steps. They are equally applicable to any genre or photographic technique.

  1. Read and study the skill. This is a great start.
  2. Understand the possibilities and limitations of your camera.
  3. Go to a location with possibility, stay in one place and practice.
  4. After each photo review what you have done and consider changes.
  5. Be compassionate with your creations. They are signposts to your path forwards.
  6. Share your art and get feedback.
  7. Keep practicing, refining, reading, studying, comparing and distilling what you create. Your aim is to discover what you like. Your photos only need to please you. Feedback from others is interesting and potentially helpful, but ultimately if you like the photo then that is enough.

In the spirit of being a teacher who practices what he preaches, I have started practicing. The photo below is my favourite from a set I took at twilight last night on Swansea Bay. I invite your comments! The extreme colours were created by playing with the white balance, the highlight tones, shadow tones and colour settings in camera.

Chris Friel recommends NOT combining ICM with ME. I get that, but I decided to experiment with it anyway. Hence the rather soft defocused nature of the tree. I believe there is possibility here and will continue to practice.

It struck me today, whilst out walking at the beautiful Langland bay that a ME selfie would make the perfect header image. The me in ME! Here it is below in all its glory. I will continue to practice and refine how and why I use this technique. I am interested in its ability to convey emotion experienced through visual elements of design and the blurring of what we consider reality.