How to Start Out in Levitation Photography

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Image by Ronald Tan. Used with permission.

Photographer Ronald Tan shared his first attempt at levitation photography recently on the R/PhotoCritique sub-Reddit and in our opinion, he really nailed it. But in order to pull it off, he put in quite a bit of work and planning to achieve his final creative vision. Ron was inspired by the photos of other folks around the web, and started out with photography when he was 11 years old. When he got to University, he bought his first DSLR and realized that he likes the idea of planning for a photo and creating a scene rather than capturing a moment as it happens. “Levitation photography can be pretty easy. With a tripod and some basic editing knowledge it can be done. Like anything there is a learning curve involved.”says Ronald. “This was my first attempt though, so I wouldn’t call myself an expert.”

Ron tells us that the image was taken at a park during sunset. “It’s a specific location which I’ve used before with other portraits. We set up the tripod and tried to keep all the frames as consistent as possible to minimise the amount of post processing required (however it didn’t end up like that).”

To start, he photographed the background alone–which is simple enough. The next shot involved a ladder and putting Shani (the model) on top of and laying down with a ribbon wrapped around her. “A softbox was above her which had a red gel to get some red light on her (to simulate the balloon).” says Ronald. “Separate images were taken for the legs, upper body, and hair as it was quite a difficult and uncomfortable pose to hold. That’s my fault for not trying it prior – we should’ve brought a pillow. The ribbon was suspended in the hair with a fishing rod held by a mate the whole time.”

“It gets more challenging if lighting changes throughout the shoot or if you don’t have a tripod, which makes composting more difficult.”

Finally, the balloon photo was taken separately. Then everything was brought together in photoshop via layering, compositing and merging.

Ron achieved this image with a Canon 5D Mk II, 85mm f1.2 L, a MeFoto tripod and a Godox V860 flash.

More than anything though, Ron’s image shows that to start out in levitation photography, you need to plan and have a creative vision after being inspired by something.