Trick photography that involves levitation often puts a smile on my face. It is always inspiring to see fun and creative ideas by ordinary and talented photographers alike. Even when you know the photo is digitally manipulated with software like Adobe Photoshop, the genuine sense of wonder and amazement never ceases. Maybe it’s our secret desire for flight that creates these feelings we get when we come across great examples of levitation trick photos.
Did you see the one with the floating baby?
If you’ve spent any time on the Internet you’ll undoubtedly have seen some great examples of levitation photography. They’re mostly beautiful, surreal, or creepy pictures of people floating in mid air without any kind of support, defying gravity. One mother decided to take it even further and let her baby do the levitating. If you haven’t seen it then you can search for “Rachel Hulin flying baby” online. An excellent twist on the standard baby photos that all parents love to take, her photographs takes it to a higher level, literally. The effect is so convincing that some people thought she tossed the baby in the air but she assures people that her baby wasn’t tossed.
So how is it done?
Basically, the simplest way to do a levitation trick shot is to just jump and take a photo at the same time. Technically you don’t even need to do any photoshop work later if it’s done right. As long as you can hold a pose in mid-air that doesn’t look like you’re jumping, the effect is very convincing. Of course this wouldn’t work well with babies, so we need to use some other techniques that do involve digital manipulation.
Some ideas for jumping
To get great levitation photos from jumping, the key is to reduce all the tell-tale signs of a jump. The photo needs to look sharp, meaning no motion blur unless it’s used for artistic effect. Some of the great examples are those where the body is stationary in mid-air but flowing things like hair and dress looks as if its underwater. Throwing in some impossible-to-perform jump moves can create poses that looks really wacky and outrageous.
If you want a specific pose or shot that is difficult to execute, then you could rely on using props, either hidden or digitally removed later in software. Sometime some rope or supporting structure is just enough for you to hold a pose long enough to take your desired trick shot.
There are many ways you could hide a prop. Remember that a photo is 2D, so with clever framing and use of perspectives you could hide all traces of a prop if you wish. Materials that flow like fabric does an excellent job of hiding rigid props.
Another thing to consider is that a photograph is static in time, so you could remove the prop just immediately before the photo is taken. A favorite is to hold onto a door knob (make sure it’s sturdy enough!) while standing on a stool or box. Kick the stool or box away while extending your legs and body as horizontally as you can, and you have yourself a classic “hanging on to a door knob” pose that looks as if you’re being vacuumed or sucked into a black hole or something.
Cut and paste and compositing
Sometimes you can’t avoid using photoshop to create that special levitation effect you’re looking for, so you’ll need to composite several images into one. The trick to getting it to look right is the lighting and shadows. These are intuitively the biggest tell-tale signs of photoshop (other than the impossibility of it!).
You’ll need to pre-visualize what the final photo looks like so you can setup your lights and camera. Once you find your perfect angle then lock it down with a tripod and take multiple shots with and without the floating foreground object. When you have multiple images with the same lighting and shadows then the composite image looks a lot more convincing.
Photography is supposed to be fun, so spend some time and see what other people are doing. There are websites and photo albums dedicated entirely to create these trick photos, so you’ll never run out of inspiration. Share your creations and you’ll be inspiring others to try it out as well.
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