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Thread: Levitation photo OR Let's go flying!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Levitation photo OR Let's go flying!

    Who hasn't wanted to know what it's like to fly? Well, that was my daughter and my weekend project. To fly. That is, to do a levitation photo of her.
    This type of photo manipulation has captured me for a while and I have been dying to try it out.
    I sat last week and talked through some ideas with my daughter (age 6) and we came up with a good concept... a field, a tree, her in a flowing pretty dress, balloons and a stool kicked over (we forgot this at home, so it was left out). And her flying. This is how the photo ended up:


    Let me take a step back - I have been smitten with Brooke Shaden's photography (google her). She does these amazing composites and I have watched her workshops on Creative Live. I also read Miss Aniela's tutorials/interviews and books on the subject. She is also an amazing composite artist, who became famous through Flickr.

    So these ideas have been churning in my head for a while and while driving to work from a different direction one morning, I saw this field with a lonely tree that would be perfect as the background for our project. I got super excited and couldn't wait for Saturday to come! Both me and my girl were all fired up about this! Come Saturday morning, I grabbed with me my "assistant photographer" son (age 10) and our trusty dog and all my equipment.
    With the early spring air, we headed out with the windows rolled down and the music blaring. My favorite kind of weekend project.

    I realized the same morning that I had forgotten to buy balloons the day before. My plan was to buy three balloons with helium and then later to duplicate them in PS. Luckily, I found five balloons at the bottom of my photography bag (from some other shoot we had). I brought along some garden bamboo sticks to tie the balloons to, because I wanted her to be able to control them better. My plan was to erase the stick later. While inflating them out there in the field, some popped right away and I ended up with a single balloon on a stick. This was rather ridiculous, but I went with it anyway. I was planning to photograph her at a later stage, with a bunch of balloons and then transfer only the balloons. I ended up however, downloading a googled photo of balloons and inserting it. You can probably tell it's not the "real thing", but I don't care, I like how it turned out.

    Here is how you do it: (I will write assuming you have a fairly good knowledge of Photoshop.)

    1. With the camera on a tripod, I first shot the background scene. I decided to shoot it with three exposures and combined them in PS later.
    2. I then let Maya, my daughter, climb the small ladder we took along. We had already discussed how to pose her. I then shot several shots of her, making sure I got: the hand holding the balloons high, the other hand trailing behind, left and right foot stretched out behind and pointed toes, one after the other. I didn't shoot many shots, totally about 25 or so I think. Within half an hour we were finished.

    3. The big work is, of course, done on the computer. I first took the three exposures of the background and combined in an HDR program I have. I ended up using the patch tool and content aware to remove some distractions in the background. You certainly don't need to do this, but rather just choose one shot for the background.
    I looked at all the photos in Lightroom/Bridge and chose which ones I wanted to use for the composite. One of her body/head, right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot.
    I then loaded them into PS. Like anything in PS, there are tons of ways you can do this. This is pretty much how I did it. Mind you, this was my first time trying this out. I might end up changing my flow in future productions as I learn from my mistakes.

    4. Since all of them were taken within a very short frame of time, the exposure was the same and I didn't have to change it on the photos. The important thing to me was that the light and the shadows were coming from the same direction.
    5. I took in the background image (without Maya).
    6. I then took in the main photo of her and placed it above the background image. I layer masked it and erased everything but her. I also erased most of the ladder stool she was on. This left a "hole" where her dress was missing, but I knew I could fill it in later.
    7. Then I started "rebuilding" her flying. I used the Lasso tool to select her backfoot with a little of the dress, I feathered it lightly (10-15) and copied it to a layer, then dragged it into my project page. I layer masked it and with a fairly soft brush (about 50 hardness) and low opacity (30-40), I blended the backfoot in place.
    8. I then did the same for all the limbs.
    9. Once I had the limbs in place, I made some more selections of the dress in areas where the ladder had been and a few other areas where it needed some extra touches. Some patches I ended up using transform tool and warp mode in order to drag and fit the selections into place.
    10. Once I was happy with her flying body, I collected all the layers into a group. I then added an empty layer above this and used my patch tool and healing brushes to fix color differences in the background and to remove the white silhouette around her. You need to make sure you have Sample:All Layers for this to work well.

    11. When I was happy with how she looked in the photo, I cut out the bunch of balloons from the other photo (I was lucky to find one that fit perfectly with a white bg that was easy to remove) and placed them in her hand. I reduced the saturation and played with the color hue a bit.
    12. Thoughtout this whole process, I made sure I saved the project several times. You can merge the layers, but I preferred to merge as little as possible and rather saved several versions as pdf files as I worked.
    The next step was to add a shadow to her and the balloons. I merged the layers of her and made a selected from this layer. I then filled it in with black, used a good blur and dragged it down and below her, transformed it into place that looked more of less OK to my eye. I then used multiply or darken blend mode (I think) on the shadow layer and lowered the opacity. Of course I did the same to the balloons.

    12. I then experimented with several layers of textures that I have (from Florabella and Pain the Moon) and a sun flair layer also. I played with the opacities and removed the textures from her face and body using layer mask.

    That's pretty much it. I spent about three hours working on it totally. My photo is obviously far from original, but I was happy with my first attempt. And Maya was more than thrilled about it! It will be a canvas on the wall in not too long I am sure. There are tons of ideas out there on the net. Google levitation photography and have a look. I am now working with my son to make a photo of him using composites and it should be a fun project too.

    Here are some screen shots of my work in progress:



    * Aino *

    My gallery

    : Nikon D4S & Nikon Df with various lenses.
    : Lightroom and PSCS6

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    A rural city in Victoria, Australia
    Oh, wow! Thanks so much for that mini-lesson Aino! You have combined so much amazing stuff together there. Love those clouds you added. It is so magical. Maya must be ecstatic!
    Camera: Canon 7D, Olympus OM-D E-M5 MII
    Lenses: for the 7D - Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 and Sigma 50mm f/1.4, for the OM-D - 45mm f1.8, 7.5mm f3.5 (fish-eye), 12-40mm f/2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8
    Software: Photoshop and Lightroom CC, ACDSee 14
    Platform: PC
    My travel blog: snippets Flickr Gallery: esther_a

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Fabulous Aino! Thanks for sharing how you did this - it's on my 'have a go' list!

    My camera gear: Nikon D5000, Lenses - Nikon 50mm 1.4 (LOVE!), Tamron 18-200mm 3.5-6.3, Nikon 28-80mm 3.3-5.6
    Computer: iMac
    Software: Adobe Creative Cloud: Photoshop and Lightroom

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Poland, Ohio
    Awesome...thanks again for the walk thru~

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    It's fabulous, Aino! I bet she LOVES this! So pretty. I really like the texture and opacity of the page you blended as it's just perfect with the dreamy theme.
    The part about your whole process that confuses me though is how you did this in 3 hours? I can sometimes spend 3 hours choosing my background!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    South Carolina
    Wow-thanks for all the steps-love the end product!

    Imagine the possibilities...and Happy, Happy, Happy!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Hampshire, UK
    I'm so glad you shared this loved the picture
    read all about it!... -->
    My DD gallery!
    I use; Cc and LR5 on my beloved iMac!
    I'm a Canon girl I have a 5D MRK II.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    love it so much. It's stunning. How did you get the clouds in there as well?
    Don't forget to share your son's levitation photos!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by echogirl View Post
    How did you get the clouds in there as well?
    Thank you Doris - the clouds is a texture from Florabella. I have never used this before, but it worked out beautifully.
    * Aino *

    My gallery

    : Nikon D4S & Nikon Df with various lenses.
    : Lightroom and PSCS6

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    She's going to love having this on her wall!

    My gear: Nikon D700; 24-70mm 2.8; 70-200mm 2.8; 105mm 2.8; 50mm 1.4; 150-500mm 5-6.3
    My software: Photoshop CC on a PC; Lightroom 5.2; ACDSee 20

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Wow, this is beautiful! Thanks for the walk-through!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Country Victoria, Australia
    This is absolutely superb. And so so magical.

    My Gallery
    My Blog

    Camera : Canon 60D and Sony a300
    Softwear : Photoshop Creative Cloud
    Fun Stuff : Wacom Bamboo

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Beautiful Reno Nevada
    It reminds me of a Lynn Lupetti print! Just fabulous!

    My toys: Canon EOS 5D, 24-105mm, 70-200mm, macro 100mm
    My software: PSE v12, ACDSee Pro2
    My platform: I'm a Mac
    My blog:


  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    aka - justbnsharon

  15. #15
    Oh, Aino, so this was your photography expedition you went on! Wow, you must be so pleased with the results. Your DD is such a perfect age to be the subject of this fantasy with the balloons. Well done, my friend. The sky is lovely, the tree is lovely and Maya is lovely and you are so talented!!

    iMac computer/Adobe Creative Cloud: CS and Lightroom; SonyA57

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Huntington, WV
    What great inspiration for us and what a fun photo for your daughter. Love it!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    johannesburg, south africa
    Aino this is BRILLIAN!!!!
    my blog
    my gallery

    Tools of the trade :
    Nikon chick D700 D200 D70
    lenses : 70-200;18-70 50mm 1.4 85mm 1.8 18-200 Flashing chick SB800
    macbookpro chick
    The chick needs - Nikon 24-70 2.8 ed & nikon 70-200 !

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Annapolis MD
    Aino, thanks so much for sharing your techniques. You amaze me! (Kelly you certainly gave a perfect example of a person who is 'open-ended' )
    My Blog:Cooking My Life
    What do we live for if not to make life a little easier for someone?
    iPhone6 is my camera!/27" iMac/El Capitan

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    This is beautiful, Aino! Thanks for sharing!

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Thank you ladies.
    * Aino *

    My gallery

    : Nikon D4S & Nikon Df with various lenses.
    : Lightroom and PSCS6

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Wieliczka, Cracow, Poland
    Aino - thank you for sharing this! It is so inspiring. I love it!
    I'm sure you and your daughter had a lot of fun preparing this. Fantastic, creative play with a child. She will remeber it for ever.
    And result is amazing!!!

    DDblinkie! photo DDblinkie_zps0593abf9.gif

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    So much love went into this, and it's fabulous! Amazing Aino!

    My Camera - Canon 5D Mark II
    My Lenses - 24-70mm f/2.8, 50 mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8, 100mm f/2.8
    My Platform - iMac
    My Software - Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, ACDSee 17



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