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I love to be creative, and to challenge myself to occasionally use curious techniques. While on the Central Coast of California tour earlier this month, one method I infrequently employed was a slow shutter speed handheld to purposefully achieve blurred images. When doing this, it’s possible to get an impressionist or abstract image that might be more interesting—or, at least, more unique—than if a quicker shutter or tripod had been used. I wouldn’t want to do this with every photograph, but when used sporadically (or maybe for a particular project), the results can be intriguing.
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Bokeh is an often discussed aspect of picture quality. A lot of people use the term, but I don’t know how commonly it is understood. Bokeh is a misspelled Japanese word that means fuzziness. In photography, it is used to describe the out-of-focus portion of a photograph. Good bokeh simply means that the quality of the blurry part of an image is pleasant. Obviously what is “good” is subjective, as different people have different tastes. When there are bright points (such as lights) that are out-of-focus in a picture, the camera will render them as blurry orbs, which are sometimes called “bokeh orbs” or “bokeh balls” or “bokeh circles” (depending on who you ask). Sometimes when people discuss “bokeh” they’re specifically talking about these orbs and not the rest of the blurry part of the picture, even though technically all of it is bokeh, and not just the bokeh balls.
In this article we’re going to purposefully create blurry bokeh balls as abstract art. We’re going to do some things in the name of creativity that might seem photographically unusual or even outlandish.
Hold on tight, because things are about to get fuzzy!
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I’ve created a number of film simulation recipes that require double exposures, including Faded Color, Vintage Color Fade, Faded Monochrome, Faded Monochrome for X-Trans II, Split-Toned B&W, and Bleach Bypass. These recipes are a little more difficult to use, and, because they require further explanation, you won’t find any of them on the Fuji X Weekly app. This one, called Faded Negative, won’t make the app, either (perhaps there will be a way to include them on a future update). These double-exposure recipes aren’t for everyone, but some people love them because you can create a great vintage look that you’d never expect to get straight-out-of-camera. I know that this Faded Negative film simulation recipe will be greatly appreciated by some of you.
To use this recipe, you’ll need to first select “Average” under “Multiple Exposure CTRL” in the Shooting Menu. What’s great about this particular double-exposure recipe is that the only change you will need to make in the settings between the first and second exposure is exposure compensation (many of these require more adjustments than just exposure compensation). You want the first exposure, which is the scene you are capturing, to be bright, and the second exposure, which is a green piece of construction paper, to be a little darker. You can control how much “fade” there is by the second exposure—the brighter the exposure, the more fade there will be.
What makes this recipe work is the second exposure of a medium-green piece of construction paper. You want this exposure to be out-of-focus. If it’s in-focus, you’ll get the texture of the paper in the image, which is perhaps something you want, but probably not. You can manually focus a blurry image, or if you just hold the paper closer to the lens than the minimum focus distance, the paper will be blurry even with autofocus.
No photograph will last forever. Some films are more prone to fade than others, and some prints are more prone to fade than others. Faded pictures are a reality of photography. While some people would consider faded images to be a negative thing, there are others who appreciate the aesthetic, and want to incorporate it into their art. This Faded Negative film simulation recipe is for those who want to achieve that look straight-out-of-camera. This recipe is compatible with the Fujifilm X100V, X-Pro3, X-T4, X-S10 and the upcoming X-E4.
Dynamic Range: DR400
Noise Reduction: -4
Grain Effect: Weak, Large
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Strong
White Balance: Auto, +4 Red & -6 Blue
ISO: Auto, up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +2/3 to +1 1/3 for the 1st exposure, 0 to +1/3 for the 2nd exposure (typically)
Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using this new Faded Negative film simulation recipe on my Fujifilm X100V:
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There are many creative ways to use multiple-exposure photography on your Fujifilm camera. You can create pictures that might not at first glance appear to be multiple-exposure, yet using this tool opens up different aesthetics that aren’t otherwise possible to achieve in-camera. The multiple-exposure feature on your Fujifilm camera is often underutilized—there’s so much potential!
I’ve done a number of experiments with multiple-exposure photography, and written many articles on the topic. Below you’ll find links to some of those posts. If you missed them, or maybe you haven’t thought about multiple-exposure photography in awhile or at all, I invite you to give it a try!
A creative option found in many photo editing programs is texture. The texture, which might be canvas, paper, cloth, wood, etc., is added as a layer which can be blended as strongly or subtly as one might want. It’s a fun technique that adds an unexpected element to pictures. I used to occasionally do this when I used Alien Skin Exposure software. There are even some specialty films that have texture built-in, such as Revolog Texture films.
When I was experimenting with my Faded Color and Faded Monochrome film simulation recipes, which use double-exposure photography to create a vintage film aesthetic, it occurred to me that I could use the double-exposure feature of my Fujifilm X-T30 to add texture to my pictures in-camera. I could get a textured look without software. Incredible! So I begun to experiment with textured JPEGs, and the results were interesting.
You might ask, “I can do this in Photoshop in only a few seconds, so why would I want to do this in-camera?” That’s a good question that deserves a lengthy explanation. I used to shoot RAW, but I rely on camera-made JPEGs now. Why? It saves me tons of time and makes my photographs more honest. Since I started shooting JPEGs, my photography production has gone through the roof while my total time investment in photography has noticeably dropped. I’m creating more with less. It’s all thanks to Fujifilm’s superb JPEG engine. The honesty statement is a little more controversial, but it’s clear that photography in general has taken a large perception hit when it comes to integrity. Non-photographers (photography consumers) don’t take a picture at face value anymore, and “Photoshop” has negative connotations. People ask me, “How much is this Photoshopped?” I answer, “None of it, this is how the camera captured it. This picture is unedited.” You’d be surprised at the overwhelming positive responses that I get from this answer. People find it refreshing. Photographers don’t see anything wrong with photo manipulation; however, many non-photographers feel that it’s not the image that’s being manipulated by the photographer, but the general public. They feel as though they’re being tricked by dishonesty. Whether or not that perception is fair or should exist is a whole different discussion, but you can avoid it altogether by shooting JPEGs. People are looking for authenticity, and this is one way to move in that direction.
To capture a photograph with texture on your Fujifilm camera, you will first need to enable the double-exposure feature of your camera. On the X-T30 it’s found on a knob on top of the camera. You can use any film simulation, but note that double-exposure pictures on the camera will be flatter (have less contrast), so Velvia, Classic Chrome and Acros work best because they have more contrast. Astia and PRO Neg. Hi work alright, as well. You will want to have Highlight and Shadow set no lower than +2, and more might give better results. Don’t be afraid to try +4 on one or both. I also recommend DR100, and DR200 if the scene has a lot of contrast. I find that for the main exposure, exposure compensation typically needs to be in the +1/3 to +1 range. The second exposure, which will be the texture exposure, typically needs exposure compensation set to -1 to -2, and I usually start at -2 and adjust as necessary. The camera will show you what the picture will look like, and it also allows do-overs if you need it.
For texture, I found the best results came from a white stretched canvas for painting. I also tried other things, like burlap, cloth, paper, wood and metal, but the results weren’t as good in my opinion. I recommend trying different materials and seeing for yourself what you like or don’t like. After capturing the main exposure, capture a second exposure of the textured object. It’s really that simple. The camera gives a 50/50 blend of the two exposures, but because the first exposure is brighter and the second is darker, it will appear more in the neighborhood of 70/30, which is what you want. It might appear as though the image is actually printed on a textured surface.
This is a simple but creative way to use the double-exposure feature of your camera. You could really play around with this and get inventive. Try different settings, different subjects and different textures and see what happens. Below are examples of textured pictures I created using this technique on my Fujifilm X-T30:
I much prefer to create a look in-camera than to use software to achieve it. I’m a big fan of avoiding post-processing whenever I can because I don’t like sitting in front of a computer anymore than I absolutely have to. Sometimes it’s not possible to achieve my photographic vision without editing, but most of the time with a little care I can get the exact look I want straight out of the camera. Whenever I find a trick that might help me get in-camera the results I want, I’m willing to give it a try.
Recently I came across an article where photographer Maciej Pietuszynski used colorful sticky page markers, also sometimes called popup index tabs, to create light leak effects without software. Stick the colorful page markers in front of the lens and watch the magic happen! It works quite well and is surprisingly convincing.
In the film days, light leaks would happen when a camera became worn or damaged. When the seal that keeps the inside of the camera completely pitch black is compromised, unwanted light enters and exposes the film. If film isn’t handled correctly during development, it’s also possible to get light leaks that way. The two pictures below are examples of light leaks that I have experienced.
Light leaks come in all sorts of colors and shapes. They’re not typically uniform. Some people love them and some people hate them. There are some photographers who actually seek out cameras that leak light, and even a few who will purposefully damage a camera in order to create light leaks. There was even a 35mm film that was produced that had light leaks already on it, so that you could get the effect with a camera that wasn’t damaged.
In the digital world, you can mimic the light leak effect using software, which is something that I occasionally did using Alien Skin Exposure (I haven’t done this in several years). Using a faux light leak is fun every once in awhile, and it works well for certain images, but it can seem kind of gimmicky if you apply it too often. Below are two pictures of mine that include fake light leaks using software.
Using page markers is a good technique to achieve a light leak effect without using software. I played around with it on my Fujifilm XF10 over the last two days, and I was able to get some interesting results that did in fact resemble light leaks. In my opinion, it made the images look a little more analog. In the pictures where the effect is really subtle, it gives the images a slight atmospheric feel that is still intriguing. I don’t think this something I’d want to do all of the time, but in the right situations it can be effective. At the very least it’s a fun technique to experiment with. It’s very lomography in spirit.
If you find yourself bored on a Saturday morning or you just want to try a new technique to produce a more analog-like result, I invite you to give the page marker light leak trick a try. It’s something that you could file away for use at some later time when you have a certain look in mind, or maybe you’ll find it to be useful in your regular workflow. Below are photographs that I have captured using this technique.
I’ve been doing multiple exposure photography off and on for a long time. It seems as though every year or two I get a short-lived urge to be creative in that way. I’ll make a number of multiple exposure photographs over the course of a few weeks, then I’ll stop until that urge returns in another year or so.
This type of photography can be done in-camera on film, in the darkroom on paper, in-camera digitally, or with Photoshop or some other similar software. At one time or another I’ve done it each way. I think in-camera on film has the best potential for great results, but it can be very tricky, requiring great skill and great luck. Getting good results in Photoshop can be tricky because, most often, it’s easy to spot when one has done that technique. I find that in-camera digitally is a good method, not quite having the potential that film provides but not producing obviously fake results like what one often sees when done with software.
Here are some examples of multiple exposure photographs that I’ve done in the past:
The bug to create multiple exposure pictures bit me again recently. Last week I used my X100F and X-Pro2 to capture several double exposures. I looked around for interesting opportunities to combine scenes. One difficult aspect of multiple exposure photography is combining two exposures in a way that brings new meaning, that changes what both scenes are about. It’s definitely abstract in nature, but there has to be a point to it other than just abstract, or else why do it?
Fujifilm makes it pretty easy to do this type of photography in-camera because you capture the first image, then it superimposes that onto the second as you are capturing it. You can see exactly what the results are going to be. Typically, even with highlight and shadow set to +4, the straight-out-of-camera picture looks flat, so some post-processing is required, although I try to keep it to a minimum.
Hopefully I will have some more opportunities to create even more double-exposure pictures coming up in the next few days. I have a number of ideas floating around inside my head. I hope you enjoy the ones that I captured below.