Taking Flower Multiple Exposures

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purple Primula denticulata 9 layered Flower Multiple Exposures
Primula denticulata 9 layered ‘in camera’ Multiple Exposure | ƒ/3.2 | 90 mm macro prime lens


Taking flower multiple exposures is the very start of a photography adventure. An adventure that will eventually lead you into a world of blur, abstraction and impressionism. Where rules don’t exist. And where you the photographer, over time will transform yourself into a visual artist.

Double and multiple exposures allow you to indulge in fantasy. But one of their strongest uses is the intensification of reality.

~ Freeman Patterson

So join with me as we uncover a multi-layered reality through my new photography series. I’ll be exploring multiple exposures, montages, blur, ICM – intentional camera movement, abstract and impressionist photography. It’s going to be a series of experiments without rules. Rules after all only hinder our creativity. Forget about sharpness, forget about exposure. Gear doesn’t matter in these experiments. It’s the artistic vision that counts!


This is a series where flowers and other subjects will move across the frame with deliberation and fluidity yet with an ambiguous destination. Where light and shadows will intersect whilst colours will blend beyond what’s visible. It’s where shapes, patterns and texture will form as subjects in their own right. As a result your final images will leave so much more to your viewers imagination.


So let’s get started!


Finding New Ways To Express Your Creativity!

Flower multiple exposures are a good introduction to the world of blur. There is predictably with these initial techniques and it isn’t as challenging as some types of impressionist photography which will be featured later in the series.

A purple single flower blurred using the swirl technique - Flower Multiple Exposures
Moving the camera right to left in small increments each time before I press the shutter button. ƒ/4.0
a single flower from a purple rosette of a drumstick primula - Flower Multiple Exposures
Moving the camera from left to right keeping the focus point in the same place. ƒ/3.5

My Flower Multiple Exposures Technique

  • I shoot my flower multiple exposures using a Canon 5d Mark III and ‘in camera’ rather than in photoshop. You can view all the technical details on setting up your Canon camera at this link. Sorry but you’ll have to rely on a google search if you don’t have a Canon camera.


  • Most of the time I set my camera to ‘average’ blend mode so that the camera automatically underexposes the raw images. As a result the brighter parts of the image blend better.


  • I also prefer to shoot 9 frames/layers in succession as it gives a more painterly feel. Though it really depends on the subject! 
  • As a photographer you can choose your own depth of field. It’s a matter of personal choice. Sometimes I’ll shoot very wide at f2.8 to recreate softness. While at other times when I want more definition, texture and sharpness in each exposure I’ll shoot between f16 – f22.


  • I prefer to hand hold as I have more control over camera movement as opposed to being locked on to a tripod. Though later in the series we will be using a tripod.


  • You can use zooms or primes, hand held or on a tripod, wide angle, macro lenses or lensbaby. It’s fun to experiment with whatever is in your camera bag! When I have only a few flowers I’ll use a macro lens. At other times when I’ve a large drift of flowers I’ll use a 28 mm or 50 mm lens.



Finally there’s one more thing you have to remember. Try not to shoot in bright contrasty sunlight where there are highlights bouncing off leaves and petals. You’d never shoot in those conditions when taking normal flower photographs unless you were using a ‘fill in flash’ OR shooting primarily for bokeh. The same applies when taking flower multiple exposures.


Take your photos at dawn, evening, in a shady part of the garden, on an overcast day or use a diffuser.


As I suggested in the Practical Photography magazine interview last year I’ll use a scrim or diffuser to block the harsh light. I find that horticultural fleece pegged to bamboo canes makes a great screen between the sunlight and the flowers. Plus you can adjust the bamboo canes so that they stick in the ground diagonally and they don’t disturb too many of the surrounding plants.


I used a purple Primula denticulata commonly known as a drumstick primula for this blog post. As the flower is round most of my movements were circular following the form of the flower.

Swirl Effect

a single blue flowering drumstick primula with 9 layers of images blended together in camera - Flower Multiple Exposures
Primula denticulata flower multiple exposures | ƒ/10.0 | macro prime 90 mm lens


  • Decide which part of the flower you want in focus.
  • Then start taking the multiple exposures moving ever so slightly in a semicircular direction.
  • Start either from the right hand side or the left.
  • Make sure you have grid lines showing in your camera viewfinder or on live view. This means that you can keep that focus point in the same place as you move in the semicircular direction.

Multiple Zoom/Pan Effect

a purple Primula using the zoom pan technique - Flower Multiple Exposures
Zoom/Pan in a right to left semicircular direction | ƒ/10.0 | 90 mm macro prime lens


  • Despite using a prime lens I pretended it was a zoom lens!
  • I took my first photograph.
  • Then with each subsequent shot I physically moved in a little bit closer to the flower.
  • Kept the same focus point but also moved the camera a small increment to the right in a semicircular direction before I pressed on the shutter.
  • If you were using a zoom you wouldn’t need to physically move your body to get closer to the flower with each subsequent exposure. You’d just adjust the focal length of the lens.
  • I continued to move the camera in a semicircular direction and each time I took a photograph I physically moved closer to the flower.
  • You can start taking your images close up and work away from the flower. Or else start far away and move closer to the flower with each subsequent shot.

We’ll cover double exposures on another blog post!


Even if you don’t have a camera that takes multiple exposures you can recreate something very similar in Adobe Photoshop by following these tips. In addition there are plenty of free photo-editing programs like Picasa and Gimp that will allow you to work in layers to create a multiple exposure montage. Furthermore since there’s an app nowadays for almost everything I’m sure there must be one to make multiple exposures with your phone photos! 


Never let your first attempts discourage you. Sometimes it takes time to tap into your creativity mode as you experiment and try new things with your camera. It will take lots of practice to master some of the techniques later in this series. Some will be easier than others. But the possibilities will be endless.


Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the Scottish outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at the only photographic gallery in Scotland - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

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