levitation photography tutorial irfan hussain thereddotman

Bend reality – Levitation Photography tutorial

“It’s not leviyosaa, it’s levi-oh-sa.” Hermione Granger (Harry potter and the philosopher’s stone)

Being alone does things to you. Makes your thoughts wander. When I was back in chennai, I get back home and all my devotion was just towards my family. Now that I am alone, shutting out myself from all electronic media kinda takes me into a creative meditation mode. It’s normally not that way. It tends to remind me how lonely I am and that I have left my family, my wife and my year old son alone back in another state. But I make it incline towards a creative path and tend to channel the train of thought towards photography.

One fine evening after I return home from work, this happens.

levitation photography tutorial irfan hussain thereddotman
Wingardiam levi-oh-sa

I can levitate too!! Seriously, I just gave you photographic evidence there? Don’t believe me? No? Yeah ok, I’ll just stop it right there.

This kind of photography is called levitation photography and I have just the tutorial for you to help you understand how can to do it.

levitation photography tutorial

Levitation photography is a trick photography technique and like every other trick photography work flows out there, this one too involves a lot of creative process. We will work up a scene, think of ways of bringing them into the frame and compose it all into one levitation photograph. Ready? Let’s get started.

Things required for levitation photography

  1. Tripod:
    I used it mostly because I was the model in my own picture but later on in my process I realized that the use of a tripod in levitation photography is a lot more than taking the self shot.
  2. Model and various props:
    When you are visualizing a scene for levitation, think out of the box, because you are creating something fantastic here. Make your creativity go wild. Add model and use props along with them because inanimate objects floating in air helps you creative a better impact on your audience.
  3. Photoshop:
    This technique involves a lot of photoshop work. If you are not that familiar with photoshop, don’t worry. I’ll try to go step by step with as much detail as possible so you can get the hang of it. If at all you have any questions, do let me know in the comments and I’ll have you covered.
  4. Patience:
    And I mean a lot of it. The shooting process can be tedious with thinking of coming up with ways to keep things afloat in your picture and the processing can be even more so. However, this is actually the fun part of the whole process of levitation photography.

You don’t needy a pricey camera for this. Just about any camera, even your mobile phone, will do. Just make sure you use a tripod.

Got everything you need? Ready? Now let’s get shooting.

Shooting a levitation photograph

I cannot stress this enough, before you start shooting, visualize a scene that you want to create. This will help you lay down a plan as to how you want to shoot.

  1. Start with the blank scene
    Once I had the scene visualized, the first shot I took was just this.
    levitation photography tutorial irfan hussain thereddotmanIt’s just a blank scene. This kinda acts like a blank canvas before you start painting a picture.
  2. Bringing in the model
    In this case, the model is yours truly. No one believed me when I told them “I want to take your picture as you float in air.” They said technology has not evolved to that extent yet that they can make anyone float and that I did not have any proof of it. I did not want that kind of negativity around me. So I decided to be the model myself.

    I just placed a bucket there on the mattress and tried to balance my self on my belly while I waited for the 10 seconds timer on my d3300 to take my picture. It was painful. So, I rested on my hands and legs as I watched the self timer light on my camera blink. When it was just a second more for my camera to take the picture, I posed and got this shot.

  3. Shooting the props
    Since I had already visualized my scene, I knew which prop was going where. So, without disturbing the position of the camera I used the self timer again to position various props in my scene and get their pictures taken.

    It’s important to shoot all the props and the model of your levitation photograph in the same scene and under the same lighting condition because if you shoot them in a different light setting, the props will look artificial and it will fail to create a surreal levitation effect.

Once you are done shooting all the images, it’s time to open up photoshop on your computer and start creating your levitation photography.

Levitation photography tutorial workflow

This, as they say, is where the magic happens. Load up your images from your camera to your computer hard drive and lets get started.

  1. Open all the images in photoshop
    Just select all the images and click and drag them into the photoshop work space. If you have shot your image in RAW this will open up all your images in camera RAW. Don’t have to pay much attention to detail at this point of time. Just get any minor adjustments that you want to do but do not forget to sync up all your adjustments to all the pictures.

    Once you are done, click open images at the bottom right corner of the window and all your RAW images will open up as different tabs in photoshop.
  2. Cut out the model
    Let first work on getting the model in place. Since I am balancing on that bucket my main aim here will be to eliminate the bucket from the scene. I can do so by merely layer masking the image with the model over the blank image and painting away the bucket but I also want to tilt the position of the model a little bit so as to bring in a little more levitation effect. Therefore, here I will choose the pen tool.
    With the pen selected, draw a path along the contours of the model. You can sue the polygon lasso tool as well to do this but pen tool is much more accurate.
    Once you have finished drawing a path all around the model, excluding the bucket of course, right click on the image and click “Make selection”. This will high light the path in marching ants.  Press ctrl + X (command + X for mac) and then ctrl + v (command + V for mac) to cut the selection out and place it on a separate layer on top of the image.
  3. Cut out other objects
    Using the same method cut all the props and place them on a separate layer in their files.

    For the camera bag alone that you can see in the foreground, I will use the layer mask method because I will not be changing the position of the bag in the scene. I will just layer mask the layer with the blank scene image over the image where I am holding up the flap of the camera bag and erase myself out.
  4. Compose you levitation photography
    Once you have all cut out all the necessary props and models, it’s time to compose your levitation photograph as per the scene. I’ll start with the model first. Remember cutting out the model in step 2? Go back to the same file and copy the layer on which you have the cutout of the model. To do this, press and hold ctrl button (command for mac) on the key board and click on the layer thumbnail in the layers panel. You will see that the cutout has been selected with the marching ants highlight. Press ctrl + C (command + C for mac) and go to the file with the blank scene. Press ctrl + v (command + V for mac) to paste the model in the blank scene. You will notice that you already have a picture of the model floating in the air.
    Do the same for the props as well. Copy their cut outs from their respective files and paste them on to the file with the blank scene image
  5. Final touches
    Merge all the layers or flatten the image. (I normally make a copy of all the layers and merge them together, just in case if I have to go back to my layers and make any changes). You can make any adjustments as you see fit. I am just going to tweak the brightness, saturation and the image structure a bit in nik viveza and top it off with a bit of vignette from nik colour efex.

And that’s about it. Save your file as jpeg and you have your very own levitation photography to amaze your friends.

levitation photography tutorial irfan hussain thereddotman

Things to remember

  1. Shoot all the images in the same light condition, shooting different objects with different light will only complicate your process and will make the final image look very artificial.
  2. Before shooting, think of a scene. Think of something creative and fantastic. You are levitating for crying out loud.
  3. Shoot a blank scene first and don’t forget to use in your process. This will act as fail-safe and will help you remove any wanted objects that you used as support and suspension.

I’ve tried my best to elaborate as much as possible. Like they say, the devil’s in the details. If you have any doubts or you feel unclear about any of the steps above just gimme a holler in the comments section and I’ll try to sort it out for you. Try it yourself. It a lot more fun, especially if you do it with a group of friends to help you with the entire shooting process.

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