Double Exposure: A Clever Photo Prank From Half a Century Ago

When the engineering students and staff of King’s College in London gathered together to take a faculty portrait, the photographer used an old camera that panned from left to right in order to capture an extremely long panorama of the entire group in one frame. It worked a bit like the panorama features on modern smartphones: start the exposure on one side of the frame, and then gradually sweep the camera across the scene while everyone in the frame stays as still as possible.

During that particular photo shoot, one of the students decided to have a little fun. Taking advantage of the way the camera worked, he stood still on one end of the group for the beginning of the exposure, and then hurried over to the other end while the camera was being panned.

The resulting photograph, seen in the video below, shows that student twice in one photo, as if he had an identical twin present at the shoot:

That’s one example of how people pulled photo pranks back in the mid-20th century.

  • Elizabeth Sass

    St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School in TN does this every year in the their all-school picture. The University of the South does as well. Good fun!

  • val escobar

    Cleaver. Now days he might of been expelled. I wonder what happened to him?

  • Samcornwell

    You can still purchase Kodak Panorams today. Ones in good condition go for between £100-200 on eBay. Alternatively, Lomography do a camera called the Spinner 360 for about half that price.

  • EdH

    Someone did this in our senior picture in high school, in 1994. We had a graduating class of about 800, so it was a large picture, but he did it.

  • psimanc

    This was pretty common in schools in the UK. I’ve got one from my Grammar school in the attic

  • Simon Forsyth

    We had a photograph done of the whole school every five years. The photographer used a Kodak Cirkut camera and he used a Cherry Picker to take the photo from above. We were told in no uncertain terms that if anyone tried the above they would be liable for the cost of the reshoot!!

    I never saw the photo and heard later that there must have been some movement of the cherry picker during exposure. In a staff meeting sometime later a teacher with a very dry wit asked where the results were. He was informed that the images didn’t come out and the photographer couldn’t understand it as he had used the same technique on the fire brigade and it worked. The wit then asked if maybe they could buy the Fire Brigade photo instead!!

  • Joshua Tusin

    I had an 8th grade class trip to DC where we had a group photo taken in front of the capital building and this was how the photograph was made. More relevant to this post, though, is that the photographer actually had a student run from one end to the other. He claimed it was for “balance,” which was believable, but this many years later maybe it was just to demonstrate what was possible with the camera.

    Still, the “balance” thing is believable enough if a photographer wanted even rows of subjects.

  • fast eddie

    He was probably hit in the head with a cleaver.

  • DafOwen

    Agreed – have stories from both parents about this happening.

  • The_photographer_Tom

    I did something similar with my son a few years back whilst experimenting with the stitching function on a Canon G5. He just put himself in every frame that I took.

  • Brian

    Same exact story for me only I went in 5th grade. We probably had the same photographer too. My dad ran from one end to the other. He actually did it twice (when my older brother was in 5th grade as well).

  • studio 17b


  • Eric G

    I remeber this also

  • Richard

    Yes, indeed! It was very frequently done, but it was painful! As soon as the first print came, the school office went through it with a magnifying glass, and any “double” was beaten – six of the best, with no malice!

  • Patrick

    I did this in our senior class picture with some other friends in 2001. I imagine it wasn’t the last year it was done, either. It was fun.

  • penskyc

    same story brah, to the tee!

  • Doug

    Ditto except it was 2 teachers. Funny thing happened, one of the teacher tripped while running to the other side. All we could hear was scuff, scuff, ugghh. So had to keep a straight face and not ruin the photo.