Making objects or people float in mid-air isn’t as hard as it seems. With a little planning and editing, we can produce a believable effect of floating or levitation. We will create a floating knife in this tutorial. The principles you learn can also be applied to levitating a person or other objects. Lets begin.
SETTING UP & TAKING THE PHOTOS
Reduce camera shake
When taking photographs of the object you wish to make to float, it is most important that everything stays absolutely still. Any movement or camera shake will later cause a huge headache in post production. This is the reason a tripod should be used when photographing your subject. Second, use a remote or a timer to shoot the photo. Do not manually press down on the shutter since this will cause vibrations. If your camera is capable of mirror lock up, take advantage of that feature to cut camera shake.
Make use of manual settings & manual focus
We need two images to create the effect of levitation. One image has the object in view while the other does not. That said, if you shoot both images with any other exposure mode other than manual, the camera’s sensors will detect the change of environment and adjust the exposure. This needs to be avoided. We want both images to be identical in position and in exposure. To accomplish this, the camera must be set to manual exposure and set the exposure for your image with the floating object in view. Also, manual focus must be used to keep the camera from refocusing when we take both pictures.
Setting up your subject
The idea of setting up your floating subject is simple. One picture has your object levitated by resting it on top of something, in my case two erasers, and another picture without the floating subject or object. When choosing an object to hold your subject up, try to use the smallest object possible. Using a smaller object as your pillar or stand will help you later in post production.
Taking the two photos
Two photographs must be taken as mentioned before. Setup the floating subject on top of the other objects in your composition. Manually set the focus and exposure. Take your first photograph. Take the floating subject, along with the objects used to hold it up, out of your composition. Shoot another photograph.
That concludes Setting Up & Taking the Photos section of this tutorial.
POST PRODUCTION IN GIMP
Removing unwanted areas
Open GIMP on your computer and import both images into GIMP. The image with the knife, name it With Floating Object while the image without the knife, name it Without Floating Object.
The With Floating Object layer should be on top.
Create a duplicate of the With Floating Object layer. The name of the new layer is With Floating Object copy. We will use the With Floating Object copy layer later to create a shadow. For now, make this layer invisible by pressing the icon of an eye next to the layer.
Drawing a shadow
We have successfully removed the stands that were holding the knife up and the knife’s shadow. Now we need to draw in our own shadow.
Now we will blur the shadow. Make the Shadow layer invisible since that’s just our backup incase we want to revert to the original. Select the Shadow copy layer and select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur from the toolbar. I will add 70 pixels to my horizontal and vertical blur radius. You may need to experiment to get the effect you are looking for in your image.
In my image, the tip of blade casts a shadow over the edge of the cutting board. I have to make the tip of the shadow a little more blurry. I do this by selecting the tip area with the Free Select Tool and reapplying the Gaussian Blur filter.