Pro Photo

Breaking Down Double Exposure Technique

new waves, no secrets, exactly how – from Gavin Phillips

I’ve got my favorite, old fashioned ways to make doubles, but Gavin Phillip’s new “industrial revolution” tutorials simplify the process of creating beautiful double exposures for everyone. So easy to begin and fine-tune what used to be time and tricks intensive in camera or enlarger, or significant digital Photoshop knowhow.

Gavin’s purpose in all his tutorials? To provide a foundation that will help any photographer achieve an edge in today’s brutally competitive market. The newer photographer knows well that consistent camera work and people skills are required, and will take time and experience to develop. But when you also offer something different and desirable right from the start, you’ve got a viable business model; price cutting is not. Gavin’s tutorials and actions are a great way to create unique products that will put you on the map. Everyone wants to work toward higher fees, easier sales and generation of a body of satisfied clients.

The Double Exposure package has two parts: the tutorials and the actions.

I was pleasantly surprised to find coherent clarity and full disclosure – something we don’t often see on convention platforms or the internet. The tutorials are worth the price of admission.

The crux of double exposure technique (as well as painting techniques which Gavin also offers) is that it is not something that can be automated. Each creation is unique. Yet by the time you’re watched the tutorial set, you’ll realize it’s not rocket science. His process is complete, careful, repeatable immediately. Beginners be not daunted; Gavin really shows each and every step. He doesn’t talk down to the novice, nor hide the real details, fearing that an advanced photographer will steal his secrets. He wants everyone to succeed.


My portrait sample using Gavin’s double exposure protocol is called “Brothers Forever”.

Original images for

My husband Karl and his bro Burnie, both videographers, taken at the Famous Maroon Bells, to be combined with a peeling mural in downtown Aspen, Colorado. The street sign adds a convenient and appropriate editorial comment.


Brothers Forever final double exposure

Once the melded, flattened image is complete (flattening is essential), add a new wave style with an action from the generously included set. Did I use the actions straight at the default settings? Not quite. As Gavin says, “…one click and done is rare, but layers are easy to tweak.” This is really the second best reason for buying Gavin’s action/tutorial sets. His “housekeeping” is perfect. Layers are labeled; adjustments are separated for clarity and flexibility. Nothing is hidden; with minimal clicking around you can figure out what he designed and modify each action layer to suit you, or suit the individual picture. These are just a few of my favorites.

Autumn Sun action from Gavin Phillips

BW Mood action from Gavin Phillips

BW Mood from Gavin Phillips

Dark Skies from Gavin Phillips

HyperRealism from Gavin Phillips


The layer organization and labeling in Gavin's actions are a huge bonus. If you’re like me, you often make adjustments right on an image, and then find you have no way to remember or repeat what you’ve done.


The wedding double is a style we worked long and hard to achieve on 120MM film. Not kitsch; classic, yet fun and trendy. The technique is precise and much more fun. Note that sizing and placement and making sure that faces are not too mottled with texture are your main concerns.

wedding originals for double exposure

My first pass on this double I planned to put the couple in the sky. That is an OK idea, but upon seeing the images together and enlarging the ceremony shot to make details visible and putting the couple directly above seemed more appropriate.

double exposure in progress

In progress: see how the inset cut out will look. Placement and sizing are key to an evocative double exposure. The couple at original resolution are way too big. Layering and masking make the blend.

favorite wedding double exposure

My final take, giving sufficient weight to the ceremony, and not allowing the portrait to overwhelm.

HyperRealism action from Gavin Phillips – a soft blue mood

Color Enhanced action from Gavin Phillips – warm and welcoming

Tip: Here's a typical layer stack from one of the actions. What’s with the blue filled layer? Adding this layer in Exclusion mode at about 50% opacity gives a softening and slight tonal effect. Other colors for fill, particularly with desaturated black and white, give just a hint of tone. Subtle and very interesting looking; a good secret to know that makes you look way experienced.

typical layer stack fron Gavin Phillips action

Gavin Phillips for 15 years has made it his mission to demystify creative postproduction. Think of his tutorials and actions as open doors. He demonstrates in easy to understand, bite-sized pieces, how to harness what most photographers would call highly expert techniques. Efficiency, speed and modifiable actions help you to achieve trendy, non-kitschy results – even if you don’t take advantage of the layer tweakability. The user-friendly approach is built in the video tutorials that quickly invite experimentation and drilling deeper into personal style.

Gavin says, “My goal is to make techniques easy to begin; then it’s up to you.”


Click here for info, introductory video and how to purchase – not connected with Creatasphere or ProPhotoCoalition

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Jarle Leirpoll is an Adobe Premiere Pro Master Trainer and the author of The Cool Stuff in Premiere Pro. Between film projects he travels the world doing Premier Pro and After Effects training for both…