One of the most often asked about techniques in trick photography has always been levitation photography. Various experimental photographers have been doing levitation photography pretty much since the very invention of modern photography. And, of course, in modern times, photographers are still doing it, and employing the powers of modern photo-editing software, like Adobe Photoshop, to continue the tradition.
But, of course, it’s no secret that many, many countless photographers have been creating stunning and intriguing levitation photographs since long before digital photography came about. So, how did they do it? And, more importantly, how can you do it? How can you do levitation photography without Photoshop?
How to Do Levitation Photography Without Photoshop:
Very often — as counterintuitive as it may seem — the most stunning visual photographic effects are the among the simplest to perform. One very simple method of achieving an authentic looking levitation photo is simply to jump and to try and capture your subject at just the right moment in time.
In order to maximize your level of success with this method, you’ll want to use as fast a shutter-speed as possible, and try to snap as many photos as possible. You might have to take 20 or so to get that one that just looks perfect — or, depending on a number of variables, you may even have to take much more than that. So, if you’re after the perfect, most convincing levitation illusion in your photograph, don’t be afraid to take a lot of photos, and expect the vast majority of them to be throw-aways. What you’re after is that one, perfect shot.
If you can expose your subject properly using continuous light, instead of flash, this may help if your camera has the ability to shoot photos in rapid succession. But, if not, you can still get great results using flash — it will just mean that your subject will likely have to jump more times before you nail the perfect shot. Or, that he or she may have to take some breaks in order to rest here and there.
As your subject jumps, there will be a point where they’re actually suspended in the air for a brief moment — neither rising, nor falling. This is the moment where the force of gravity pulling your subject back down to earth becomes equal with the force your subject exerted in physically pushing themselves up into the air. Try as best you can to capture your subject at this exact moment. It will be tricky to nail that moment in time precisely, but if you don’t get it on your first attempt, keep going until you get it… or, until your subject collapses from exhaustion. If your camera can shoot at a reasonably high rate of frames per second, and you’re using continuous lighting to light your subject, set your camera to shoot in that mode. Right around the time when you feel your subject is just about to reach that perfect point, hold down your shutter release and fire off multiple shots. With a little luck, all of those shots, except one will go straight into the ‘delete’ bin. But, the one that doesn’t will be the keeper. If you don’t get a single keeper, simply repeat the process.
The main thing in a great looking levitation photograph is that your subject must appear as though they aren’t jumping. They must appear as though they have not recently exerted any sort of physical force in order to be in the position they have been captured being in by the photograph. So, you want to inform your subject to make an effort to maintain a calm expression on their face throughout their jump, and to try and minimize, as best they can, any limb movement.
If exactly who your subject is isn’t important — say, unless you really want a levitation photograph of a particular friend, or relative — but, instead, just want to make the best looking levitation photograph you can and it doesn’t matter who it actually is levitating in the photo, try to recruit a skilled athlete — an experienced gymnast would be ideal. Or, an experienced dancer who trains in physically demanding styles of dance. Such people will be more able to make bigger jumps while making slighter expressions that show they’re exerting effort. And, they’ll be able to jump more and for a longer time without becoming tired — thus maximizing the chance that you’ll get that one killer levitation photograph in just a single photo-shoot.
I hope that answers some of your questions regarding how to do levitation photography without Photoshop. If you have some of your own tips for levitation photography that you’ve found useful in your own work, please leave a comment below and let us know about them! Or, if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like explained further, please feel free to use the comment box below in order to let us know about it as well!
Have a great day, and happy shooting!