Making things float in photographs is something that seems to pop up for many photographers. Sometimes it’s the entire point of the shot, and at other times, floating objects are merely decoration for a wider scene. Whatever your reasons, there’s easy ways to do it, and there are hard ways. One of the hard ways is to just keep throwing things in the air, continually taking shots until you get one that gives you the right look.
That method is kinda hit and miss, though. Plus, not all objects are suited to being thrown in the air. Such is the example in this video from photographer Peter McKinnon. While you can get extremely complicated with levitation images, they don’t have to be, especially for small objects. Peter shows us how we can do it simply with a telescopic shower rail or hook and some fishing wire.
The first step is setting up for the shot. This is where the shower pole or hook comes in. As well as holding up shower curtains, the poles can be wedged between walls, door frames to tie things to. Hooks come with sticky backs allowing you to mount them to surfaces where a pole wouldn’t be practical or possible.
Tie fishing line to the pole or hook, and then tie the object you want to “float” to the other end. In this case, Peter used a coffee mug. He even put a little coffee in there to add to the realism. This is why you don’t always want to try simply throwing it in the air and hoping you get the shot.
Now that your object is at a set height, getting shots is much easier. While it won’t move up and down, it may still spin around slightly. If you’re using a remote trigger, you just need to time up your shots with when the object is at the right angle.
You can see above that it really didn’t take many shots for Peter to get something he was happy with. A little planning and setting up beforehand makes things go much more smoothly. But, that fishing line is in the shot. So, after tweaking in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or your raw process of choice, it’s time to jump into Photoshop.
Peter uses the Spot Healing Brush to remove the fishing line from the photo. But he offers a few pointers to get the best results. You usually don’t want to just draw a line straight down from the top to the bottom of the fishing line, or you’ll get all kinds of weird results. So, you’ll want to do it in sections. Each bit will remove a different part of the line.
Contrasty areas might mean you need to make the spot healing brush a little bigger to get a good result. Or you may even need to switch over to the clone stamp or the regular healing brush tool to sample from another area.
Once you’ve gone down the whole line, you can use the same tools to clean up the knot where it ties to the object.
Finally, just finish of processing as you normally would. Perhaps a curves layer to tweak contrast, a little lens flare, or anything else you might normally do to one of your photographs.
A simple technique, but one that seems to stump a lot of photographers. Hopefully, this gives you a few tips to try out the next time you want to make something levitate in front of your camera.
Have you shot levitation photography before? What did you use to hold your objects in the air? Do you have other tips you can offer? Let us know in the comments.