How to Make Photo Subjects Float with Photoshop

Believe it or not, you can bring a little bit of magic to your images without the use of spells or charms. In fact, creating the illusion of weightlessness can be as simple as gathering a few household objects and utilizing a single tool in Photoshop. In this step by step guide, Peter McKinnon demonstrates just how it’s done:

It should be noted that tossing an object into the air and bringing your camera to a setting that allows for consecutive rapid exposures can freeze an object in midair (if the shutter speed is fast enough, of course). Though the results of these image are left up to chance with this technique, it may be your only option if you’re working outside or can’t manage to figure out a way to set up a hanging rig.

However, if hanging an object within your image is an option, you should take on the challenge. Having a stationary, predictable subject makes it possible to properly light a scene and create more dramatic, theatrical images. Here’s what you can do to stage your own levitating object:

  1. Establish a secure, stable anchor. A tension rod can make for a reliable anchor in a pinch—it can be placed between two parallel walls or inside of a door frame and is easily adjusted. Better yet, it’s effortless to remove and painless to maneuver into different positions. If you don’t have a rod on hand or you can’t position it it the area you’d like to photograph, a Command hook can often get the job done. Convenient and inexpensive, the hook can quickly adhere to a ceiling to serve as an anchor.

floating object anchor

  1. Use fishing wire to hang relatively lightweight objects. Just thread the wire around your anchor, and on the opposite end of the wire tie the object you wish to float. Fishing wire is frequently used by studio photographers because of its strength and durability for suspended subjects. An added bonus lies in the fact that the line is clear and unobtrusive, making it difficult to detect in an image before any sort of post processing.
  2. Add details to further exemplify the floating illusion. Often times, establishing a sense of place or adding a human to a shot can give the object a little bit of context and subsequently strengthen the fantasy aspect of the image. If you don’t have an assistant or model to stand in for a photograph, the self timer or a remote trigger can be used to take otherworldly self portraits.
  3. Edit out the fishing wire. When you’re happy with your composition, import your image files into Lightroom. Once you’ve made a few basic global edits, export your favorite photograph into Photoshop. Then, use the spot healing tool to erase all evidence of the fishing line in seconds. Work piece by piece to paint over the wire. Small steps create a more authentic final image with minimal distortion.

removing fishing wire in Photoshop

  1. Embellish. Create filters and make adjustments to color, contrast, and image sharpness. Filter and lens distortion effects can be used sparingly to build mood within your photograph. Once you’re satisfied, post the picture to your platform of choice and sit back while your baffled peers gawk at your handiwork!

“You can now float objects in your photos. Get creative with this…float anything you want!”

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