THE MAGIC OF LEVITATION PHOTOGRAPHY
Sadly, human’s cannot fly. Luckily, humans are smart.
Welcome to my humble guide on how to do levitation photography, where I will show you guys the magic to make people fly… or at least make it look like so.
We shall dive into five methods of doing levitation photography, and only one of them will involve Photoshop. So you purists don’t have to worry too much – this is 80% purist friendly and 4/5 Photoshop free guide.
Some sugar added, but no preservatives.
Now onto creating your own hauntingly beautiful levitation photo, or that how-the-heck is this possible photo.
Magical wands not included, each sold separately.
For a start, you actually only need a decently good camera – Smartphones will do the job but they are still kind of limited. So stick with a good DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Otherwise, these are the few things that might come in handy for your magic. Note : affiliate links below, read my boring disclosure message if you want to.
- A sturdy tripod, the ball head ones are more convenient. [Selens] offer pretty affordable ones for about $50 to $100, or spend a little more on a good old reliable [Manfrotto].
- A remote trigger to reduce camera shake, and ease your directing. Does not matter if it is wired or wireless. [Nikon] [Canon] [Sony]
- [Wind machine]… if you are crazy enough.
- [Folding stool step] good for faking mid-air actions.
METHOD 1 : THE EASIEST LEVITATION PHOTOGRAPHY
Who says levitation photography is difficult? No Photoshop needed, no expensive gear needed, just dry ground and a bottle of water. This one is for you guys who are not into Photoshop. Here is the super easy way to do levitation photography :
Just pour some water on dry ground.
Yep. That’s all you need to do. Ask your subject to stand a few steps away from it, and snap away. The wet ground should look like a spot of shadow, giving an illusion that your subject is floating mid-air.
Oh, but please do watch the sun and the direction of the shadows cast… or it will be an obvious “busted” when the shadows don’t match. Also, you are going to need dry ground that absorbs water pretty well. Roads, concrete, and stone are your best bets.
|💡 Challenge yourself. You can power up the scene by throwing a few simple props, and catch some mid-air action.|
METHOD 2 : I CAN FREEZE TIME
What if we don’t have dry ground? What if we don’t even have a bottle of water?
The second method that I am going to share is a very commonly used technique, but it will require some patience, timing and stamina.
The basic concept is very simple, ask your subject to jump, and snap away at the mid-air action.
Sounds easy enough? Not quite. Catching the right timing and pose can be quite a pain. Let me start with the camera settings.
- You need a rather fast shutter speed, I will recommend at least 1/200 sec.
- Most of the time in levitation photography, we commonly use fast shutter speed to “freeze time”. But remember – Slow shutter speed and motion blur can be interesting too.
- Razor thin depth of field is going to be hard, since your subject will be moving around quite a lot. Use a decent aperture of about f/2.8 to f/5.6. Sorry bokeh lovers.
- Use the continuous burst shoot mode if your camera supports it. It makes life a lot easier with getting the correct timing.
Now for a few quick tips for the framing and action.
- Ask your subject to stand on the spot where the jump will be made.
- Give plenty of space in your frame to account for the jump.
- Use the focus trap technique if you have trouble.
|💡 Don’t wear your talent out. If you still cannot get your shot after many tries, it’s time to take a break.|
METHOD 3 : STACKING WITH PHOTOSHOP MAGIC
This is the usual method that I use, and the bane of purists. If you are not into Photoshop, you might want to skip this method and continue with the next one.
Yes, it involves Photoshop.
Yes, it also involves some clever Photography tricks.
But the basic idea of this method is simple – take one base photo with your main subject, then many shots of levitating objects. Finally, combine them together in Photoshop.
As such, if there is too much camera movement, you are going to have a hard time combining the shots together in Photoshop. Shooting on a tripod, and not moving the frame is definitely recommended.
You can pull this one off with hand-held, but hopefully, you have some magic with steady hands.
STEP 1) VISUALIZE
Start by having the concept and complete picture in your mind. That will help you plan your “base photo”, all the props that you need, and how many “prop photos” to take.
STEP 2) THE BASE PHOTO
A picture speaks a thousand words, this is my “base photo” for the final blend.
The base photo is the most important one with your subject or talent, and you cannot afford to screw this one up. You can discard some of the later shots with the props, but never the base shot… so definitely nail this one in the right place.
I know my shot is kind of messy with a diffuser in the background, and my friend is totally in the frame. But that’s the idea of the shot. You only need to get the important elements right – which in my case, is the composition and mid-air hop.
STEP 3) THE FLYING BITS
This is the fun part.
Grab a whole bunch objects that you wish to levitate, and take a lot of photos at different positions.
STEP 4) BY OUR POWERS COMBINED
The final part of the process is a mind bending Photoshop blending.
As you guys may have noticed, I simply used the lasso tool to copy and paste in the snacks… and it looks ugly.
No, it’s not complete. Yet.
After a lot of patient cleaning, moping and polishing – the final levitation image.
That’s it for the Photoshop method.
But remember – keep steady, and try to shoot on a tripod. It is not really that difficult, just a tedious process to shoot multiple photos and blend them together in Photoshop.
|💡 If you are adopting the Photoshop stacking method, have the floating objects as close to where you want them to be… So you don’t have to do as much cleaning as I did.|
A QUICK SHOUT OUT
To the good people who made this shot possible.
Talent : Aiko
Master Ninja : J.Q. Photography
METHOD 3.5 : USING A STOOL OR STEP
This is the same Photoshop stacking method, except for a small difference. We will be using a step or stool to make the talent levitate.
How it works, is so simple that will make you laugh.
Yep, that is all the “magic” behind the scene. Same concept – take a base shot with the talent inside, then another shot with just the background… or Photoshop the hell out of it.
ANOTHER QUICK SHOUT OUT
The people who made the above shot possible.
Talent : Elica
METHOD 4 : FAKE THAT FLOAT
I have not tried this method, and this is still a concept in my mind.
Please don’t burn me.
This is going to be a hard one to pull off, and you really need a lot of helpers. I have not gone that far yet, but I will share my idea nonetheless.
This method is especially good when your talent is wearing a lot of props or is not very mobile. The idea, is to create and fake a floating feel.
A ton of props and equipment. To make the magic work, you will require a high powered fan, someone to do all the hair and cape flipping action. Using a fishing line to pull on capes may be a good idea as well.
This is something like the old school way to make superhero movies, and you are definitely going to need a studio or controlled environment.
If anyone manages to do this, I am pretty sure it will be an awesome photo. Remember to throw in some flying dry leaves, add some fog and dramatic lights.
METHOD 5 : UNDERWATER
I know, I can hear some people saying “underwater is not levitation”. But think again, underwater is the best place for levitation.
Things float naturally when you are underwater. No need to blow stupid fans, no hair flipping, no cape flipping, and no jumping action.
You need to waterproof all your gear, go underwater, or build an extremely huge aquarium.
All right, maybe this method is not for everyone. But there is just something very charming about underwater. To do or not to do – you decide.
NEED SOME INSPIRATIONS?
All right, I have imparted all my secrets on making people float. If you are still stuck, or low on the creative juice – Check out some of these awesome works :
Don’t be afraid to copy, try to “reverse engineer” and recreate those shots. It’s all a part of the learning process.
NOW GO FLY
With this, I shall end the guide with one last tip :
|💡 Levitation photography is all about using some creativity. Don’t give up if you don’t get it right in the first few tries. Just keep trying, and it is awfully fun to play with even when you fail.|
Now go awaken your awesome inner magician. Enjoy, and happy shooting!