How to Create a Double Exposure in Photoshop (With Tutorial) | Marissa Merrill Photography

So many people have asked how I make my double exposures, how I select images for them, and how I use photoshop to manipulate the photos how I want. So today, rather than sharing yet another love story (come back next week for that), I thought I would make an in-depth tutorial on double exposures!

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a wedding photographer based out of Fort Worth, Texas! I love capturing love in an artistic way. I constantly experiment with how to tell a story through my photos and one of my favorite ways to do that is with double exposures!

In my opinion, double exposures are a great way to show an entire moment through a single photo. They are such a fun way to show emotion in your work without having to sit down and write an emotional caption to tell the story. But let’s be honest, they aren’t as easy to make as one would think. When I first started experimenting with double exposures, I struggled to find a good tutorial online that explained everything from start to finish. So that’s what we’re doing today. So pull up your laptop, open photoshop, and let’s do this thing.

Engagement photos double exposure with landscape picture and couple being romantic
Double exposure on wedding day with wedding flowers and couples silhouette

Start With Ideal Photos

The most important part of creating a killer double exposure is to make sure that you shoot your photos with the double exposure in mind. Know what you want the double exposure to look like and be mindful of that when taking your photos! 

The best photos for a double exposure are super high contrast with very distinct whites and blacks. So think silhouettes. That might not make a lot of sense right now but bare with me. I promise it will make more sense as we get further into the tutorial.

First Things First.

The first thing that you have to do when making a double exposure is understand all the different transparency styles that are used. This is by far the most confusing part about this whole tutorial, so bare with me (Especially when watching the video because I tend to ramble…lol). 

There are only a few transparency settings that I suggest using if this is your first time creating a double exposure. Darken, multiply, lighten, screen, and overlay. Below are two images that I overlaid to show you how these different transparency settings work. The image of the couple is the top layer and the layer that I changed the transparency on. 

P.S. You can find the transparency dropdown in the “layers” panel. It should say “normal” when you first put your image into photoshop. 


The first transparency setting that I like to use in a double exposure is “darken”. This setting basically makes the darkest parts of each layer visible. 

So in the image below, you can see that the photo shows up on all the white parts of the image. That is because the image of the couple is darker than the white parts of the graphic. The black square remained black because it is darker than anything in the image of the couple. Sounds pretty simple, right? 

Well… maybe not… 

When you overlay two different images for a double exposure, there are going to be more colors than just black and white. And more often than not, the image looks like a jumbled mess of that grey section in the middle. 

Why does that grey look so bad you ask? Well, the grey in the middle of the image is darker than some parts of the image and lighter in the others. So on the girls arm, the grey is darker, but on the shadow of her arm its lighter. Basically, only portions of the image are showing up because of the different tones. (That is why photos with high contrast and distinct blacks and whites are best for double exposures!)


The “multiply” transparency setting basically makes the top image see through. Think about this one like a stained glass window. In the areas that have light, you will see the picture clearly. The places that have no light, the image just looks black. In the places where there is color behind the stained glass (like the red squares or the grey portion) the colors of the image will be distorted, but you will still see the image.


The “lighten” transparency setting is the opposite of darken. It also happens to be one of my favorites when creating double exposures. 

In this setting, the lightest portion of each layer is visible. That is why you see the photo of the couple where the black square is (because the photo is lighter than the black square). 

The “lighten” setting also makes that ugly gray mess on portions of the image that are half light and half dark (I.e. the couples faces in the photo below). That is because only parts of the image are lighter than the grey and other parts are darker.


Screen is the opposite of multiply. With the screen, you can see the image on the darker parts of the image, but if anything is completely white you won’t see it. On the portions of the bottom layer that are a middle shade (grey + red in the image below) the colors of the image of the couple are distorted but remain visible. 


Last but not least, “overlay”. Truthfully, I don’t know how to explain the “overlay” setting other than saying that it just overlays the image on top of the bottom layer. You can see it everywhere except when something is stark white. I think that is because photoshop reads “white” as nothing. So there is nothing to overlay the image onto.

I like to use overlay to bump the contrast of something before I save out the final image (watch the video for an example of how this is used).

Transparency’s In Action

Now that I explained what all the different transparencies are its time for some examples! Below is the same double exposure, but each image had a different transparency. This should help you better understand how these things work in action!

Now For The Fun Part

Now that you have a better understanding for how the transparency settings work, you can get to creating! If you are still feeling confused (which you probably are because I suck at explaining things) watch the series of videos below!

In the first video I talk through all of the different transparency settings a little more in depth. I also cover how to use some of the different tools in photoshop that are helpful when creating double exposures!  **Little disclaimer, if you are already super familiar with photoshop you can probably skip this first video all together!**

In all the other videos you will see how I created 3 different double exposures from start to finish! If you need a step by step guide, these videos are for you! Feel free to watch them all, or just pick your favorite one! They are all basically the same, they just use different transparencies!

Engagement photos double exposure with landscape picture and couple being romantic
Double exposure image of couples holding hands and a landscape image
Double exposure on wedding day with wedding flowers and couples silhouette

I Watched All The Videos… Now What?

If you made it this far, CONGRATS!

To see more of my double exposures, follow me on instagram! Also, if you create any double exposures of your own, feel free to tag me in them or send them to me via email! I will definitely be sharing them over the next few weeks!

And of course, if you have any questions feel free to reach out through my email!