How to: levitation in photos

Levitation can bring something magical to a photo. A normal scene with a surreal element. It doesn't always have to be the focus of the image, it can just be a little detail. Used in the right way levitation can bring your work to a whole new dreamlike level. Floating, levitating and just generally portraits being in the air. It has been a constant factor in my work over the years and I think I've gotten pretty good at it. It was a process of trial and error but, because of this, you won't have to go through that. I'll be going over three different ways I do levitation photos. And they don't involve changing into a Buddhist lifestyle, but feel free to try that out.

1. Jump

This is probably the most obvious one of the three. Jumping requires the least amount of work in post production and gives just that bit of magic to a photo. It can imply movement like I did in the first image above. Not every jump will make a good photo though. You need to plan a pose or silhouette that'll come across on camera. Focus on the face. Facial expressions can go horribly wrong when jumping, make your model aware of that and it should be fine. Zoom in every once in a while to see if you get the right expression. You can always swap out body parts later on. (but I'll go more in depth about that in the next method) The other thing you want to keep in mind are the legs. You want to capture the body when it's at its highest point, that way it'll show up as relaxed. Have your model relax his or her legs in the middle of the jump, you want to make sure they're not still tense from the act of jumping. This way you'll get a totally convincing levitation photo with just a simple jump.

2. Use a base

This technique is the most efficient when you're aiming for a horizontally posed levitation. When shot in the right way it will be really easy to finish in post production. So let's go through everything you need to think of:

  • depending on the hight you want the model to be a bar stool or a ladder should do the trick. Think of bringing a pillow to make everything more comfortable. If you're doing a self portrait keep it easy to get onto, you won't have that much time.
  • Frame your shot and take a photo of the model laying on the stool in the pose you want.
  • Lock the focus and remove everything from the frame so you get the background by itself
  • If needed, when working with flow fabric, take some extra stock photos. You might need them later.
  • In photoshop: load the two photos into one file, put the one with the model on top and erase the bar stool using a layer mask.
  • Use liquify to make the shape look realistic again and you're done!

3. Shoot in fragments

This is the third and last way I do my levitation photos and it's also the one I use most often. Especially when I'm doing more difficult poses I feel like I can get it more precisely. It requires the most work in post-production but it also gives you the most controle over the outcome.

  • Frame your shot and get an idea of where you want the subject to be.
  • Take an empty background shot.
  • Start taking photos focussing at one body part at a time. I usually do this in 4 to 5 steps: face, torso and arms and legs (tip: for the legs you can either jump or hold one leg up at a time)
  • Load the photos into one file in photoshop, use layer masks to cut the different pieces out and arrange them as you want. Blend the edges between the pieces using your layer masks and you're done!

I really hope you found this post useful. If you want me to make a video about it, let me know because I'd be more than happy to do so. If you end up trying levitation yourself, share your photos with me! I'd love to see them. 

I'm currently doing a print giveaway! Go to this post to see how you can win one of my photos.