An Alternative to Stock Photography: Three Tips on Using the Dubble Photo App

Posted By on June 10, 2014

Visual content example from Dubble App using pan frame and yellow flowers

A slightly soft image of yellow blossoms fills the frame of my pie pan shot with a diagonal spray of color. The Dubble App gives it a lush, painterly feel that few stock photos can match.


Stock photography has become the new wallpaper. Bloggers, people who post on social media, designers, email and e-newsletter creators plus a host of other “communicators” are all using the same images. The net result? Visual content (one of the most powerful assets on the web) gives away its social power because none of it is new or surprising. That’s why I’ve become obsessed with the Dubble App, a clever and quick way to create branded visual content.

Now that I’ve played with the Dubble App enough to rack up 1000 images on my account, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t with this multiple exposure application. Dubble combines your photos with photos from the Dubble App community and often creates magic.

Here are some techniques I use to create original and branded visual content that doesn’t look like every other image on the Web. (Just don’t forget to ask permission to use your shared images from your fellow Dubblers.)

1. Choose a simple image with a hard outline

Dubble’s algorithm seems to look for photos that will fit a frame or outline that you provide. To try out my hypothesis, I uploaded a simple snapshot of a fluted metal pan I saw on a wall of an antique shop. It’s just an iPhone snap with no real attention to lighting; the focus falls off on the right side due to operator error. (The Dubble App is surprisingly forgiving, partly because it’s working on visual content in small snippets, and partly because the multiple-exposure trick covers up errors that would kill a normal photo.)

Any frame or simple shape works beautifully on the Dubble App because the algorithm loves visual content with negative space.

Any frame or simple shape works beautifully on the Dubble App because the algorithm matches visual content with negative space.

Take a look at how Dubble exploits this open space with the image of yellow flowers at the top of my post. So much stock photography is literal which makes the painterly quality of the multiple exposure stand out.

Here’s another example of the power of a frame (a technique that works in ordinary photography, too) that achieves a very different result. The black-and-white face on an outdoor board with a futuristic tower gives this shot a sci-fi feel as if we’re operating in Blade Runner land.

visual content from Dubble app that combines an outdoor board with a futuristic tower

In this Dubble App pairing, my pie pan “frame” takes on a futuristic look you don’t see often in stock.

I particularly like this weird multiple exposure that features a humped beast-like creature in my frame. Literal imagery has its place but branded visual content often combines mystery with surprise.

visual content with frame and a shadowed beast-like creature

The element of mystery makes this image a keeper.

2. Choose an image with an overall pattern

Dubble will often use pattern and texture to create a strong photo. You can give it a leg up by providing the Dubble App uniform texture or overall patterns to work with. In the same antique store I found the fluted pie pan, I snapped this bunch of keys arrayed on a page of handwritten script. I don’t dislike my shot but I think Dubble made it a lot more interesting in the multiple exposures below.

This is the original shot of keys resting on a page of script. It’s nice as it is but mono-scale and a little drab.original photo before multiple exposure shows metal keys on dark script

Visual content that combines original shot of keys with green color and picture of a crow

On my first Dubble App try, the app added a lovely green wash and a bonus crow to my image of keys. It’s ethereal and the color grabs the eye.

visual content augmented by Dubble App: drab keys get a wash of blue and a light fixture is added as a multiple exposure

In this iteration, the Dubble App turned my key image blue and inserted a light fixture that mirrors the shape of the keys serendipitously.

Here’s the same technique with a snapshot of some spiky holly that adds texture to a self-portrait by a Dubbler named mzmz.

visual content with holly pattern over self-portrait of mzmz

An overall pattern of a spiky holly plant I shot at the Center for Urban Horticulture adds an edge to this self-portrait. Cool, huh?

3.Type can add commentary to any Dubble if you’re patient

Not all Dubbles are great. I throw away more than I keep. I’ve tried quite a few variations with type and some of them are so ambiguous, they don’t work well as communication. But if you keep Dubbling, you might be surprised at the result. My take is that one or two-word combos are best and you should be prepared to try many combinations before you get the one you want.

I won’t tell you how many it took to get this final shot. But I think it was worth it. How about you?

visual content from Dubble app with callas lily and The End in neon type

My callas lily and neon letters end this post with a Dubble flourish.

Cynthia Hartwig

PS We’d love to see your Dubbles so feel free to share with your tips and tricks.