Digital Focus: Perfect Pictures With a Double Exposure
By Dave Johnson
Feature: Perfect Pictures With a Double Exposure
Photographers use double exposures for all sorts of clever tricks. With a film camera on a tripod, I once used a multiple exposure to photograph myself manning every position around a high-tech piece of gear in a physics lab. A few weeks ago, we used the digital equivalent of a double exposure to create an artistic soft focus around a flower. The same technique has a genuinely useful application, though: fixing the exposure in a picture.
Exposure Control and Multiple Exposures
So how does this work? It’s pretty simple in theory. Last week, I suggested that you could use the exposure lock button to frame a shot while bringing out the details in the darker parts of your picture. I also suggested you could get the opposite result by locking the exposure on the sky to keep it rich and colorful.
Here’s the trick: If you take both pictures, you can combine these “opposite” shots using the layers tool in your image editing program to keep just the bits you like from both. It’s that easy!
Taking the Pictures
I know you’re familiar with using your digital camera’s exposure lock feature. (You did go back and reread my last column, didn’t you?) So, suppose you see a scene like a sunny day at the playground.
When you lock the exposure on the sky and snap the picture, you’ll preserve the detail in the highlights. To get the darker bits exposed properly, point the camera at the shadows, lock the exposure, and take a second shot.
One word of advice: For best results, the pictures should be composed identically. That means using a tripod. Lock the camera in position so you can only swing it up and down to lock the two different exposures.
Loading Into Layers
Now it’s time to load the two images into your image editor (save them to your hard drive first, of course). We’ll use Jasc Paint Shop Pro for this example, but almost any editor with layers will work just fine.
With both images open, click the one with the badly overexposed sky and foreground. You’ll notice that the picture is a disaster for the most part,except for the shadows. Choose Edit, Copy from the menu and then click on the other image. Choose Edit, Paste, Paste As New Layer. That image should disappear, replaced by the overexposed scene. Don’t worry–they’re both still there, only the clear blue sky and sharper overall level of detail are hidden in the lower layer.
Erase the Top Layer
Now it’s time to use your artistic skills to erase the top layer, revealing the one underneath. Choose the Eraser tool, which lives in the eleventh cubby from the top of the Tools Palette on the left side of the screen. Be sure not to select the Background Eraser, which also lives in that cubby.
Click on the picture and start “painting.” As you do so, you’ll see that you’re erasing the top layer so the bottom layer can show through. You may need to erase carefully and possibly even change the size of the Eraser via the Tool Options Palette at the top of the screen. For my picture, I erased all of the top layer except for the perfectly exposed shadow area in the bottom right of the screen.
Dave’s Favorites: Organizing Your Photos With StudioLine Photo 2
How many pictures are on your hard disk? I have a few thousand, and it can get awfully frustrating to find the one I’m looking for.
There are a lot of choices out there for organizing image files, products such as Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album, Adobe Photoshop Album, and ACD Systems ACDSee. Another excellent, but less well-known, choice is StudioLine Photo 2 from H&M Software. It combines image cataloging with editing tools, slide shows, archiving, printing, and sharing.
I’ve used StudioLine before, and was impressed with the original version of the product. Version 2 has a slew of new features, including image backup and archiving, the ability to create Web galleries of your photos, and a dramatically overhauled interface.
It’s the interface, in fact, that I find most interesting. There are no dialog boxes in which you accept or cancel changes to your images, for instance; everything happens immediately. Isn’t that dangerous, you ask? Actually, it’s quite safe for your pictures, because StudioLine is extremely careful never to make any changes to your originals. All modifications to your pictures are always stored externally, in something it calls a “filter stack,” and you can work with any image in its edited or original form–even weeks or months after making changes. The elegance of the system is apparent when you try to e-mail a picture from within StudioLine and find that you can choose to send the original or edited version.
StudioLine has all the important bases covered. You’ll find crop, zoom, rotation, color correction, and batch processing. You can copy images to a CD, a DVD, or a Web page with just a few clicks. There are also a lot of options for adding names and descriptions to your photos.
One major disappointment is that the program doesn’t have a keyword painter like you’ll find in Adobe’s latest organizer. But StudioLine has the next best thing: After you add a description to a photo, with a single click you can tag other pictures with that text.
I have an Olympus C-3020. I plan to buy a filter adapter for it so I can use the close-up lenses from my old 35mm days. Will the camera autofocus with these in place?
–Charlie Bress, North Port, Florida
Indeed, Charlie, most digital cameras have no trouble at all continuing to autofocus even with additional filters or lenses placed in front of the built-in lens. Likewise, the exposure meters work like a charm as well. Keep in mind, though, that close-up filters will put you so close to the subject (within a few inches) that the optical viewfinder will be useless. You’ll have to position and focus the camera using the LCD display.
Hot Pic of the Week
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.
Here’s how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don’t forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.
This Week’s Hot Pic: “Basketball,” by Rob Friedman, Decatur, Georgia
Rob used a Canon Digital Rebel to capture this week’s photo. He writes: “This is a photo of my four-year-old son playing basketball on my driveway. He had been watching several of the NCAA tournament games and got the itch to play. The late afternoon sun created a pretty interesting shadow.”
After taking this picture, Rob cropped it into the wide format you see to emphasize the shadow, which is the real subject of this picture.