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How To Create Surreal Levitation Photography

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The switch from film to digital has created a thousand and one creative possibilities.

Levitation photography is one of those fun and surreal things you have to try out.

Today, I’ll explain exactly how to achieve a floating person in your photo.

Gear for Levitation Photography

There are a few different ways to achieve a floating person. Here’s what you need.

Always mount your camera on a tripod. It’s possible to do it without one but it’s not recommended. You’ll lose control over your shot when you place your camera on a table or something else.

A DSLR camera mounted on a tripod to shoot levitation photography
© Pixabay

You’ll also need a stool or chair to support your subject. If you don’t have one, you can make your subject jump but the result won’t look nearly as good.

For best results, your model needs to be in a horizontal position.

Finally, you’ll need Photoshop or similar software to make that support disappear.

Before You Start

Especially if it’s your first try at levitation photography, there are a few things you can do to make it easier.

1. Clothing

Tell your model to wear tight-fitting clothes without busy patterns. This will make it easier to edit out the chair or stool in Photoshop.

2. Light

Use soft light. Shooting in harsh sunlight will make it really tough to edit out the support. Also, it’s a lot more difficult to create a realistic shadow in bright sunlight.

Shoot on a cloudy day or indoors with diffuse light coming from a window.

A dramatic cloudy sky
© Pixabay

3. Angle

A low angle works best but doesn’t go lower than your model. This will make it impossible to edit out the stool or chair because parts of the body will be blocked. I find that an angle slightly above your subject works best.

How To Create Surreal Levitation Photography

OK, time for the shoot itself. It’s actually very simple. You need to create two photos. One with your subject on a chair or stool and one with just the background or room.

We’ll then combine both photos in Photoshop. This way, we can edit out the chair or stool.

I did this shoot in our guesthouse room in Peru so any place will work. Use your creativity!

Step 1: Prepare the Shot

Set up your tripod and frame the shot. Make sure your model is in the correct position when doing this. Pick an angle and already have to edit out the support in the back of your mind.

This will prevent mistakes and having to do it over again.

Set your camera to manual focus and focus on the model. When the focus is how you want it, don’t touch it again.

Step 2: Take a Photo With a Model

The easiest way to start is to have just one photo with a model. Tell your model to lift his or her feet and hands and take a few different shots. You can pick the best one afterward.

The setup for a cool levitation photography portrait

However, when you get the hang of levitation photography you can try different things. Take extra shots for facial expression or add accessories or props. You can then merge all these shots together to create the perfect image.

For now, we’ll use one good shot of the model.

Step 3: Take a Photo Without the Model

Once you think you have the shot to create the levitation photo, take a photo without the model and stool or chair.

Make sure the focus point and light stay the same!

The setup for a cool levitation photography portrait

And that’s it. Now select the best photo with the model. Look for the most realistic posture.

How to Edit Levitation Photography

Alright, time to create the magical levitation. We’re going to combine both photos and create one. With Photoshop, it’s easier than you think.

Before you start, make sure both images are color corrected for the best results. Sometimes, the light and color of the light change slightly. You need to correct this first in either Lightroom or Photoshop.

Step 1: Put the Images Together

Open the background image without model first. Then, open the image with your model and drag it onto the background image.

If you used a tripod, they should line up perfectly.

A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop

Step 2: Create a Layer Mask

Select the layer of the photo with the model and click the “Add layer mask” icon.

A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - create a layer mask

You’ll see a layer mask thumbnail appear next to the layer icon.

A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - layer mask

Step 3: Remove the Stool or Chair

Now, we’ll remove the support prop by masking. Make sure you’ve selected the layer mask thumbnail.

Then, select the Brush tool and start painting over your photo to remove the stool, chair, and unwanted shadows.

 A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - remove the stool

Make sure the color of the brush is set to black to do this. Use different sizes and a mix of hard and soft brushes to get the best result.

Closer to the body, you need to use a harder brush.

 A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - brushes

In the mask thumbnail, you can see black and white areas now. The black areas represent the parts in the photo you’ve removed.

 A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop

Step 4: Add a Shadow

To make floating more realistic, we need to add a shadow. Select the “Create new layer icon” to add a new layer.

 A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - add a shadow

Make sure the new layer is selected and use the Brush tool again to paint a shadow.

 A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - add a shadow

Remember I told you to use soft light when shooting? You’ll get the best results with a soft brush. The color of the shadow will depend on the color of the floor.

Usually black will work best. If the floor in your photo has a particular color, you can add some of that color to the shadow for a more natural result.

It really is a matter of trying out to see what looks best. You can use the original photo with the model for reference, by the way.

Step 5: Blending Mode

Once you’ve painted the shape of the shadow, set the blending mode of the layer to “Multiply”.

Change the opacity of the layer until the shadow looks natural.

 A screenshot showing how to edit Levitation Photography in Photoshop - blending mode

Step 6: Shape the Shadow

Use the eraser to shape the shadow until it’s perfect. Try out soft and hard edges.

You can always undo with Cmd + Z (Ctrl + Z for Windows).

Step 7: Crop, Flatten and Save

When you’re satisfied with the result, crop and flatten the image. Before you save, you can adjust things like contrast and exposure.

Save and you’re done!

A cool levitation photo of a floating female model

You’ve made your model float! Crazy!


Levitation photography is easy if you have the right gear and prepare the shoot well. Make sure to use a tripod for the best results and tell your model what to wear.

Start with combining just two shots and when you get the hang of it, add more. You can add extra props that float in the air or a fan to make the hair move.

The possibilities are endless, really. Now, let me see some of your creations!

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