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Creating Multiple Exposures With The Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Denise Ippolito shows us how to create multiple exposure images with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

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This article was written by Denise Ippolito, who specialises in flower and nature photography.

Finished image
The finished image, with some Photoshop tweaks, © 2013/Denise Ippolito Photography.

The very first thing that you need to do is set up your 5D Mark III camera for multiple exposures. You will need to go to the camera icon at the top of your menu, then at the bottom of the camera icon screen choose Multiple Exposure. You can then choose either ON function/control or ON continuous shooting (continuous shooting is good for rapid fire multiple exposures, however you will not be able to view or save the individual images in the series).

With the ON function/control you can view and choose to save the individual shots before they are merged together. I use the ON continuous shooting mode when I am only concerned with the result image and ON Fuction Ctrl when I am not sure. How do I know when I am only interested in the result image? Well, for me it is simple – if I am going to be shooting say nine multiple exposures to create a multi- random look I will choose ON continuous shooting because the individual nine images are of no interest to me singularly since most will be just portions of an entire scene.

However, if I am shooting a two or three image multiple exposure, using one or two tack sharp images and merging them with a defocused image to create a soft/sharp look, I will want to have access to the images separately so that I can use one or both of the tack sharp images as a stand alone image.

Next, choose your exposure control. The  Multi-exposure control lets you choose either Additive, Average, Bright or Dark. Here I am choosing Average which works well for the series of effects I will be describing below. However the other exposure controls will allow you to create many different looks. I suggest experimenting with them for alternate creative looks.

Next, you will need to select the number of exposures (you can choose between 2 and 9) then press set. You can select the images to be saved as All images or result only. I select All images (you must do this if you want to save images when using ON function/control) because I may want to work on some of the images in Photoshop later on. Next select one shot only or continuously. I choose continuously so that I can continue to shoot in multiple exposure mode until I disable it or turn off my camera.

Denise flower 1
Image 1 © 2013/Denise Ippolito Photography

Now you should be ready to begin. For this experiment I set my camera to 4 images, ON function/control with Average set for my exposure control. I’m using my Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Autofocus Lens for all of the images shown. You will notice by my first image (above) that my subject is not pristine and that it looks very slightly underexposed. It is not, the red channel is as far to the right as I wanted it to be. Always keep your RGB Histogram enabled so you can carefully check the different colour channels for exposure. I am not too concerned about the condition of the flower since this is really to demonstrate some of my findings but if I was not doing this for demo I would use a flower in great condition.

For the images below I started with a pretty sharp shot at f/5.6. Why f/5.6? As I didn’t want the background elements to be too overpowering to the flower and I have found that when I am doing a movement style multiple versus a soft/sharp then a f/5.6 works fine for me. If you like things a little sharper, then by all means stop down. When I create a soft/sharp mulitple I usually stop down to at least f/13. f/13 is a great f-stop for flowers because it doesn’t allow every little teeny grain of sand to show on your petals - which I like, especially when photographing in natural settings. However, I also wrote the eBook – The Softer Side of Macro, so I guess you could say I prefer a softer more gentler approach to flower photography.

denise defocussed flower
Image 2 © 2013/Denise Ippolito Photography

Back to the experiment, and the second image (above) is completely defocused. I did that by turning the focusing ring on my camera until I filled the frame with the flower’s golden colour. For the third image, I turned the plant to the right and for the fourth image I turned the plant to the left (below) just a little. Since I was using a potted plant it was easier to move the plant but you could have easily moved your camera. The fifth/final image is the combined effect of the 4 images that the camera produced.

Denise two flowers
Image © 2013/Denise Ippolito Photography
Some final tips:
  • Use a clean flower - large blemishes show up as repeats and should be avoided, especially when choosing a lot of images.
  • A tripod is important so that you retain some sharpness. You could even make sure that your movements are exactly aligned but then I feel that it loses that softness that I like so much.
  • Work in ON function/control and choose to save your images so that you have more options. For example, you may want to take the sharp centre of one of your images into Photoshop and layer it on top of the combined image for a sharper centre.
  • Keep a close eye on your histogram.
  • Notice how the background has changed in the merged image. It is best to work with backgrounds that look nice when blended with the flower’s main colour.
  • Be mindful of background elements as they can add nicely to the image or take away from the image.
Denise combined image
Image © 2013/Denise Ippolito Photography

For more information on Denise and her photography, take a look at her website.

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