I’ve never done the double exposure effect in Photoshop before, but my client had this idea that she wanted to use one with an upcoming magazine article and she asked me how I would do it. This was also my audition for a new job, so I was super anxious.

A philosophy professor wrote the magazine article. He is thinking about being stranded on Mars and how if he teleports to Earth he has to choose to either destroy the copy of himself left on Mars or let it live. The story is all about weighing the consequences, etc.

As a picture maker, they lost me at “stranded on Mars” :)

My mind was already going a million different ways. I thought a lot about the double exposure idea and sketched several things. I also sketched several other ideas that could illustrate the dilemma.

In the end, my client still wanted to do the double exposure, which was exciting because it would push my skills and creativity.

Making the double exposure effect is really quite simple, and I’ll lead you through how I did it another day. The thing I noticed as I learned about the effect is that most people just do it as something cool, and rarely is done purposefully. I’m all for doing things because they look cool, but if you can use it further your skills and your art, all the better.

Planning it out

The thing that I feel set my plan apart was that I had a plan. I wanted to photograph the professor and do a purposeful photo for the background image, as well.

Photographing the professor was a great idea — he’s got the quintessential beard, the glasses, the sweater vest and most importantly, the willingness to play. We had a great time and made lots of good portraits.

For the background image, I imagined an astronaut on Mars looking solitary, but not stationary. I thought that if the astronaut was standing still and the professor was, too, then the whole thing would appear very static.

Fortunately, I know how to get to Mars, and it’s only a couple hours’ drive. The harder part was finding an astronaut costume.

I called my past client who teaches drama and dance, knowing she had a huge closet full of costumes. Well, she didn’t have a realistic-looking outfit, but she thought her sister might. The sister — also a past client — had one but it was at her other sister’s house, and she’d have it by the weekend. Oh, and it’s a women’s small.

So much for me wearing the outfit and using the self-timer.

However, I have another past client who is now a costume maker. She was excited to both join me as the model for the shoot and she made a helmet and backpack that complimented the rest of the costume.

We headed into the desert and made a lot of pictures in different styles and poses to ensure I could make the right combination in Photoshop. I couldn’t just use leafless trees and flying crows for this compilation, but it was looking like I had a good combination for what I needed.

Now back on the computer, I made a couple of drafts and added some innovation I hadn’t seen in other double exposures. Finally, the magazine chose this as the final draft.

What came after the photoshoot

Three noteworthy things happened in this process. First, I got the job — so I’m now Utah State University’s photographer (and a lot of my pictures in the future will reflect that, which is great because this is the beautifulest campus in the country). Second, I tried a new process and had success doing it. Double exposure effects are simple to achieve in Photoshop — or even Luminar — and I feel that my skills expanded.

Lastly, and best of all, I got to work with clients I hadn’t seen in eight years and they all supported my effort. I have always known that relationships are more important than pictures. When I create with a person, we always become more than just a business relationship. And it’s essential to stir those relationships now and then so they don’t go stagnant. Social media makes keeping up to date with people simple.

I hope you take the opportunity to go create something new with old friends.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.