How do I combine multiple exposures for action shots?

  • I'd like to create one of those "stacked" action shot images where multiple exposures are combined to show the subject moving across a static background. Here's an example I found on Flickr (by Laurence Asuncion):

    Ideally, I'd like tips both for the photography part of this and for post-processing. For example, I'd imagine I want to shoot manual w/ the same exposure for all shots (as with a panorama), but I'm not sure if there are any other helpful tips for taking the shots. At one point, for example, I thought I'd have to tripod-mount the camera and keep the same framing for all shots, but I've now seen several examples where the composition moved from shot-to-shot.

    I'm also interested in recommendations for post-processing -- software, technique, etc. I can envision a manual process where I stack layers and align them by hand in Photoshop Express, but I'd be surprised if there wasn't a better way — maybe using a pano tool like Hugin.

    Added a bounty as Matt's answer is great, but would be interested if there are any other approaches to this.

    I heard that this technique is coming with some DSLR camera who can combine multiple photos automatically without using any external software. I seen the snaps too. But I din't find which camera. example photo:

    I believe you're right -- in fact, I've seen a TV ad for a cameraphone, I think, where a guy is picking faces from multiple exposures to do a group portrait. This would have to use a similar content-merging technique.

    Is there any app like this for an android phone? Like the drama function of the new sgs4?

  • Matt Grum

    Matt Grum Correct answer

    10 years ago

    Everything that applies to shooting a panorama applies to shooting one of these. A tripod makes assembling more convenient but means you can't pan to follow the action. It's important to rotate the camera and not move your feet in order to make sure the shots line up. Locking the focus is going to be necessary. Same with shutter/aperture.

    I've only done one of these, it could have been shot on a tripod but the location didn't allow it! I loaded the images in Photoshop, auto-aligned and then manually masked the overlap areas, this was quite easy as the frames are just the right distance apart to minimise overlap. A bit of overlap adds to the effect, too much can make it hard to see what going on.

    Here are the original shots:

    Photoshop's built in panorama tool has no trouble aligning the images:

    A drop shadow has been added to show where the edges are. As you can see there was a little panning. I did not shoot the images but I did the post production (and modelling :) the actual photos were taken by a friend of mine. Here are the images blended together:

    Here are the masks used:

    I did a bit more blending, rotated the image, and filled in some missing sky/foreground and adjusted the contrast slightly, here is the final image:

    The camera settings were 1/800s f/8.0 ISO200 22mm

    I would be possible to automate the process of overlapping the subject by subtracting the common background areas and layering up the frames in chronological order.

    Good stuff. Mind if I ask why you want to lock the focus? I assume that implies a fairly large DOF, too, right? Do you happen to know the aperture for these photos?

    Locking the focus is important if you shoot with the camera stationary as otherwise the AF system could lock onto the background once your subject moves past the active AF point(s). If you pan the camera to track the subject it's less of a problem. I'll dig out the camera settings when I get home (and post a bigger image).

    Thanks. I've seen the focus problem when panning - that makes sense. The DOF is also something that I'm starting to recognize as I see more of these shots -- that's one of those things I hadn't thought about previously.

    The camera settings were 1/800s f/8.0 ISO200 22mm

    Good point about the overlap — there's something that appears more dramatic that way, as if there's interaction between the two exposures.

    Oooh — the large version of that looks great! Thanks for updating.

    Matt in his psychedelic space suit again! :-)

    +1 @MattGrum thanx for tip, made my life easier to put together this composition

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM