How to make things float in your photos with fishing line, hooks and a little Photoshop

Jan 16, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to make things float in your photos with fishing line, hooks and a little Photoshop

Jan 16, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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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.

YouTube video

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.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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4 responses to “How to make things float in your photos with fishing line, hooks and a little Photoshop”

  1. Petar Maksimovic Avatar
    Petar Maksimovic

    How about just throw it with a fast enough shutter?

    1. Mateusz Polkowski Avatar
      Mateusz Polkowski

      Have you even read the article?

      “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.”

  2. Rick Bianco Avatar
    Rick Bianco

    I used a similar technique for a Product Shoot. It was the best way to showcase the Clients Earrings in her collection.

  3. Doug Sundseth Avatar
    Doug Sundseth

    The algorithm that PS uses for the Spot Healing Brush tool actually handles linear object removal over contrast lines pretty well. If you make a healing selection that runs across that wall/black shirt boundary, there’s a pretty good chance that PS will continue the shirt without the string well.

    Or it could fail miserably, in which case, fall back to smaller sections or more clone stamp.

    Other considerations when doing this:

    1) Sometimes it’s easier to remove a contrasty support than something that blends well into the background. It can make sense to use a black or white string, for instance, specifically because it shows up really well on the background.

    2) Removing strings that run parallel to a high-contrast edge can be harder, as the algorithm will tend to replicate that edge. Run your strings at a sharp angle to background edges when possible.

    3) Small bits of string that show up between parts of the suspended object can be difficult to remove. Try to avoid them when you place the string.

    4) Strings crossing a curved edge like that on the coffee cup handle are usually notably harder to remove than those crossing a straight edge. Sometimes it’s useful to heal inside of a selection that defines the object edge.

    5) Watch out for shadows from the string. They can be as much of a problem as the string itself. To minimize these, try to keep the string away from whatever is behind it.

    6) If you have a C-Stand and boom arm, they work quite well to support suspended items.

    HTH