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What Happens When You Shoot a Roll of Film Twice?

Whether accidental or intentional, double exposures can make for fun results

By Oliver DahlPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

I'd just gotten back from the film lab. The most devastating words a photographer can hear were still echoing in my mind: "I'm sorry, but your roll of film was blank."

I'd picked up my very first film camera at a thrift store a few months earlier. I wasn't sure if it was going to work at all. But sure enough, my first roll of film had pictures on it! And some of them were even good!

So you can imagine my concern when the lab told me that my latest roll was completely blank. What had I done wrong? Had my beloved camera broken somehow?

Fortunately, my camera was fine. But there was some user error involved. (Although I might even go as far as to say it was divine intervention.)

Here's what happened. After winding up my latest roll of film, the tension in the lever stopped, signaling that the film leader was loose and, theoretically, back safe in the cannister. I popped open the back of the camera, and set the used roll of film down... right next to the fresh roll I intended to put in.

The only possible explanation is that I hadn't quite finished rewinding my used roll of film, and so there was still enough of it sticking out of the cannister for me to mentally switch which rolls were which. I put my used roll of film right back into the camera, and went off to the lab with a brand new, unexposed roll of film. Ouch.

That mystery wasn't entirely solved until I finished shooting that same used roll twice, and got my scans back from the lab. After puzzling over the busy photos, I finally realized what had happened: the ole switcheroo.

So... what happens if you shoot the same roll of film twice? Something like these accidental double exposures.

In this first one with the car and fireworks sign, the other photos (of a menu inside a building) were really underexposed, and so the remaining, more obvious images still look pretty sharp.

In this one, there are two photos I took at the mall exposed over two photos I took at a laundromat. It's an absolute mess of a photo, but I find myself really liking it honestly.

Most photos on the roll are completely nonsensical and unusable. But a surprising amount of them turned out... kinda cool.

Photos from two different portrait sessions were superimposed over each other here.

This one of a football scoreboard and the neon of an old diner is probably my favorite frame from the whole roll. (And one of my favorites from my entire film portfolio, honestly.) The idea of "Friday night lights" and hitting up a diner with your friends after a football game just rings through better in this photo than anything else I could make intentionally.

This one is my other favorite from the roll. The first image you notice is my friend Ashley, wearing a Hard Rock Cafe denim jacket and standing in front of a waterfall. The second image, (easier to see if you look at it upside down) is of a small gas and service station in my hometown--conveniently sporting in big retro lettering the word "Hometown." This is another image that feels like a memory to me. Blurred weeks and months of small town exploring with your friends over the summer. Burning your hands on seatbelts, singing in the car, and going hiking. It's all there.

In so many ways, these completely accidental double exposures seem better than any one of the images would have been individually. I'm only sharing the good ones, of course. But there's definitely a magic to them.

These just go to show that sometimes mistakes work out for the best in the end. The "happy little accidents" we make along the way as we're learning something new can help make us better and introduce us to new ways of approaching it.

It's cool to see what other people do with double exposures. Between my accidental experience, and these inspirations, I'm thinking I'll have to give it another (intentional) try.

Oliver Dahl


Instagram: @OliverWDahl

If you liked these photos, check out my other posts or consider leaving a tip to help me afford my next roll of film! :)

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About the Creator

Oliver Dahl

Oliver Dahl is a published author and photographer from Boise, Idaho.

He currently studies marketing at Brigham Young University.


Instagram: @OliverWDahl

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