In the pre-digital world, making something appear to ‘float’ in an image wasn’t easy, but in the digital age we have software that enables us to create the impossible. The technique I’m going to outline here will work regardless of the scale of your shot: you could use it to make an elephant levitate, or raise a compliant ant from the ground, the only difference is the support that will be needed. In this instance, I’m working with a festive still life.
The process is pretty simple, but you’ll need two shots: the first is of the background without your subject in the frame and the second has your subject in their ‘floating’ pose, albeit with a rather obvious support to hold them up (be it a stepladder, chair or something else).
Your shots need to be as similar as possible, so shoot with the camera on a tripod and keep the same camera settings. Switch to manual exposure, a specific ISO (rather than auto ISO), a preset or custom white balance (again, not auto) and set the focus manually as well, so this doesn’t change, either.
When you’ve done shooting, follow the steps in the images below.
You can do this using your software’s Eraser tool or by creating a mask.
Regardless of your method, as you remove the support the underlying layer will show through, filling the background and enabling your subject to ‘levitate’.
At the top of this page you can see the finished shot.
I not only got rid of the glue stick holding Santa in the air, but also decided to remove the birds on the right. This is easily done using the Eraser tool.
However, I’m not convinced by the end result – although it’s along the lines of what I was looking to achieve, the shallow depth of field has left Santa disconnected from the background (he’s a little too ‘stuck on’).
A reshoot beckons…