Multiple exposures in-camera: how to get long-exposure effects in bright light

Multiple exposures in-camera: how to get long-exposure effects in bright light

We often sing the praises of camera filters and the creative advantages they offer photographers, but depending on the make and model of your camera, you don’t always need a filter. Below we’ll show you a really simple technique for making multiple exposures in-camera – a great alternative for making long-exposure effects in bright sunlight.

Note: we used a Nikon D300s, and all current Nikon DSLRs have an Image Overlay option in the Retouch menu. If you have a pro Nikon DSLR from the D300s up you can set the camera up to shoot and combine multiple exposures automatically. We’ll show you how to do it both ways in this tutorial. Other camera brands, like Canon, Olympus and Pentax, also boast their own version of this feature with very similar processes.

Multiple exposures in-camera: how to get long-exposure effects in bright light

Landscape photographers love to use long exposures because this creates a feeling of movement in an otherwise static scene.

Waterfalls and rivers turn into a smooth, milky blur, and softly waving grass and leaves create a much more atmospheric image than frozen, static details.

To capture that kind of blur you need long exposures of half a second or more, and in bright daylight that’s just not possible. Your shots will all be over-exposed.

Even if you set your camera to its minimum ISO and smallest lens aperture, you’re still likely to get shutter speeds between 1/20 sec and 1/60 sec, which just isn’t slow enough to create these blur effects.

That’s why landscape photographers use ND (‘neutral density’) filters. These are pieces of semi-opaque plastic or glass that go over the front of the lens, usually in a holder. They cut down the light passing through the lens, which means you can use longer exposures without overexposing the picture.

What if you don’t have an ND filter, or you own one but don’t have it with you? Try this really clever technique, which achieves a similar result using multiple exposures instead.

With regular long exposures, the shutter stays open all the time the picture’s being taken. With our technique, though, you take a series of shorter exposures and then merge them together.

A shutter speed of 1/20 sec to 1/60 sec isn’t enough to blur the falling water on its own, but when you combine a series of frames shot at that sort of speed, the movement of the water between the frames creates a very similar blurring effect in the final photograph.

The result isn’t exactly the same as you’d get from a genuine long exposure, but if you get the settings right it’s surprising how close it can be.

And the great thing about it is that you don’t need any special equipment to create this sort of image. All you need is your camera, a tripod and a remote release.

Slow shutter speeds are best
You need to use the slowest possible shutter speed even with this multiple-exposure technique. If you don’t, the water will take on a ‘sparkly’ appearance because the detail in each frame is frozen.

Slow shutter speeds are best: 1/30sec


Slow shutter speeds are best: 1/800sec


You can see the difference in these two multiple-exposure images. In the first, the shutter speed was 1/800 sec, in the second it was 1/30 sec.

PAGE 1: Why use in-camera multiple exposures
PAGE 2: How to make multiple exposures in-camera
PAGE 3: Adjusting exposure for perfect results


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