The Making Of “Multiplicity”

EDITOR?S NOTE: The image Multiplicity by Meredith Winn was featured on the cover of our October 2012 How-To Special Issue. We asked Winn to take us through her creative process in making the image. Also be sure to check out the related story by Winn from that issue, "Express Yourself."

I believe that nothing is ordinary, that everything and everyday life can be seen as art. Documenting my every day is how I take the time to appreciate all the beauty that surrounds my life. In a sense, the beauty I find around me actually becomes me. Photography helps me focus on the positive (or the negative—even chaos can be beautiful). What I choose to see is what I choose to shoot. Through my camera lens, I learn to look kindly at my surroundings and myself. And so I find myself drawn to self- portraiture.

I love photography full of color and emotion. I also love exploring all the versions of ourselves that make us who we are. Along the path of self-portraiture, I fell in love with the short stories I could create, as seen through one photograph and many versions of myself. The art of multiplicity photography is completely inspiring. It helps me think about (and see) all the versions of myself that exist within one body. It allows me freedom to be everything I want to be, all in one photographic package.

I?m drawn to the story of an image and how something so personal can, at the same time, feel so universally human. When I set out to create this image, a lightness within me was asking to be documented. I wanted to remember this time of newness when my heart felt open to joy. That said, I must say that I?m not always certain what I?m seeking; sometimes I just go looking for an idea of an image to help me feel connected. I fumble in the darkness of creativity and end up listening to my heart. The result is often a visual image that helps me tie the threads of past and present and future.

Life is the illusion of beauty…or beauty so true you believe it unreal.

I learn by doing. Photography catches the space between here and there, reality and optical illusion. The camera and your computer are the tools with which you can create an image of the world inside your mind. Multiplicity is a photography technique in which the same person is photographed multiple times within one scene. All the images are then digitally remastered in Photoshop. The finished image reveals multiple versions of one person all within one photo. This can be a brilliant technique for expressing yourself through self-portraiture.

When the photo shoot is carefully planned, it?s relatively easy to edit your work in postproduction. A tripod helps tremendously while shooting multiplicity images. This keeps your images all aligned, which makes for smooth edits. A self-timer or wireless remote can also prove helpful. Your only other requirements to explore multiplicity are Photoshop and layer masking. There are many different ways to get the same end result (as anyone with a camera and Photoshop can attest). Using layer masks is, in my opinion, the most efficient way to create multiplicity images.

Mastering Multiplicity Step-By-Step:


Be mindful of your background and choose a location that isn?t too busy. Passing vehicles or the swaying branches of a tree might keep you from getting the end result that you desire. Find a quiet place where there?s little or no movement of anything in the background.


Your camera should remain fixed and stationary on the tripod during the entire photo shoot. This helps you avoid camera shake and will keep your images aligned. Using a wireless remote or self-timer is helpful. If you don?t have either of these, a friend to act as shutter release is always a third option!


A wide-angle lens leaves you room to move within your frame. Keep in mind that the subject shouldn?t occupy the same space occupied in the previous frames. An overlapping subject is a little trickier to edit in Photoshop.


Autofocus on your background, then switch to manual focus so your camera won?t change focus once you?re in the frame. I would advise against Shutter Priority mode, and take the photos in full Manual mode or Aperture Priority mode. This ensures that each frame will have consistent exposure and that your aperture is locked in.


Begin taking pictures! Put yourself in the frame and move yourself into different locations within the frame. As you?re beginning, you might want to practice with just two or three of you. The more frames to combine in postproduction, the harder it is to work them in Photoshop. In my example, there are four different versions of myself.


Now that all your photos have been taken, head over to your computer. Import your images into Photoshop. Click File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack. Click browse, select your images, and leave the alignment boxes unchecked since your camera was on a tripod. Wait for them to compile.


You should now see all your pictures in the Layers window. Select each layer and add a layer mask to each one. Do this by choosing the top layer, then select New Layer Mask (it?s located at the bottom of the layers window). A white box will appear beside the thumbnail. Repeat this process for each image. (For example, four images will require four layer masks.)


Now go to your first layer mask. Select the Brush tool (since the layer mask is white, be sure to select a black brush) and taking your black brush (adjusting hardness, size and opacity, as needed), brush over the person in that first layer. In my example, this would be the person on the far left of the frame, standing beside the couch. The person will now seem to be erased from the image.


Click the layer mask. You now want to invert it by hitting CTRL+I (CMD+I if you?re on a Mac). You should now see the person in the first frame (standing), as well as the one in the second frame (sitting on the couch).


Continue on with your second layer mask, continuing to use the black brush to now remove the second person (sitting) from the frame. Hit CTRL+I and you should now see the first person in the frame (standing), the second person (sitting) and now the third person (dancing) on the couch.


Click the layer mask for the third photo. Continue by brushing out the third person (dancing) on this layer mask. Hit CTRL+I to invert and you?ll now see your final and fourth person (laying down) in the frame. Click the final layer mask for this fourth photo and brush out this fourth person (laying down).


Hit CTRL+I to invert and you?ll see all four versions of yourself within one frame. Now that you?re happy with your image, go to Layer > Flatten Image. Don?t forget to save your image.

These days, photography and Photoshop go hand in hand. Multiplicity photography can be a real test of your patience as you work to create a vision. Using different props and clothes in preproduction aid in creating a visually pleasing concept. Using different techniques (blending, layering, curving) in postproduction results in a creative expression of self. Have fun exploring this new technique!

Meredith Winn is a writer, photographer and co-founder of NOW YOU Workshops. She?s also a contributor to Shutter Sisters, featured in our regular column Point of Focus. See more of Winn?s photography on her blog the-spirit-of-the-river at

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