Multiplicity

Depending on your subject, you may or may not want their ass in the center of the frame

When you see a photo with multiple copies of the same person in it, you might think it was done in Photoshop. And it usually is. There’s another method that requires four things:

– A tripod
– A slow shutter speed
– A handheld flash (not attached to camera)
– A very patient friend

For this one I used a 20 second shutter, which is just about long enough to get four exposures of someone, after a few hotdogs and drinks by the fire. Get your subject ready for the first position, open the shutter, and use the test button to flash the hell out of them. Have them move, and flash them again. When they’re not lit up the sensor won’t record much of anything, so you won’t see them moving.

Two key things to remember are to avoid overlap in the positions, and to remember your inverse square law. Changing the flash-to-subject distance too much between positions will make some instances dimmer, like the one to the far left here. Also, darker backgrounds are preferable — you can see where the dark background makes a more solid subject, but putting them in front of something bright (like a fire) turns them transparent.

If you’re really strapped, you can use a point & shoot camera with a flash to light them up, and get some bonus “making-of” photos. Not recommended.

This is really a form of light painting, just using a brief, strong source of light instead of something constant and less powerful. You can do self-portraits this way too, but it’s a little more complicated. More fun with flash at night coming up.

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6 thoughts on “Multiplicity

  1. Mikey

    Awesome. I like this a lot, even if it’s not perfect. I actually tried to figure out how you did it before I read the breakdown and I was right about everything except not having the flash mounted on the camera. Nicely done.

  2. -S

    @Mikey: you can have it mounted on the camera here, but if you can avoid it, it’s always better to be off axis.

  3. Keet

    Next time I’d like to have a fight with myself while a few innocent Lauras look on in astonishment.

  4. B

    Thanks for the comments folks. Yep, self portrait is a lot harder, unless you don’t mind having the flash unit in the photo with you, or you are really quick and can reposition a stand and use a remote.

    And yes, you can mount the flash on-camera but remember that the camera will want to fire the flash itself; it’s best to actually have it entirely under your control. Freeing the unit from the camera lets you pop it at will.

    Thanks Keet, next time we’ll actually set this up, instead of trying to do it in the middle of campfire funtimes. I have a couple more I might post.

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