How to edit levitation photography to make your subject float
01 Open in Adobe Camera Raw
Copy our three ‘levitation_before’ files into a folder on your computer (or use your own images). To manage and edit our multiple files more effectively, open Adobe Bridge. In the Content panel, hold down Cmd/Ctrl and click each file to select it. The three selected files will appear in the Preview window. Right-click a shot in the Content tab and choose Open in Camera Raw. The three digital negative files will open in the Camera Raw editor.
02 Batch process the shots
In the Camera Raw editor, click the Select All button at the top left. The three shots were taken with the same camera settings, so they will all benefit from the same tonal and colour tweaks. Cool the shots down by dragging the Temperature slider left to give a color temperature of 5600 degrees K. Boost Contrast to +23. Blow out the distracting detail in the windows and create a more dreamlike feel by setting Highlights to +38.
03 Create a layered document
To reveal more shadow detail, increase the Shadows slider to +13. To enhance the scene’s dreamlike subject matter, reduce Clarity to -8. This softens mid-tone detail and makes the lighting look more diffuse. To make weaker colours look stronger (without over-saturating healthier colours), drag the Vibrance slider up to +10. Click Done to take the edited shots back into Bridge. Go to Tools>Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers.
04 Reorganise layers
In Photoshop, go to Window>Layers to view your layered document. Drag the layer without the model (‘levitation_before01.dng’) to the bottom of the Layer Stack. Drag ‘levitation_before02.dng’ to the middle of the Layer Stack. The ‘floating’ light stand layer (‘levitation_before03.dng’) will now be at the top. Click the top layer’s eye-shaped icon to make that layer invisible for the moment. You’ll now see the woman lying on the stool.
05 Add a Layer Mask
Click the ‘levitation_before02.dng’ layer’s thumbnail to target it. Choose Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Click the white mask. Grab the Brush tool from the Tools Panel. Click the Brush Preset Picker in the Options Bar and choose a soft round tip. Set Size to 175 to start with. Set the Tools Panel’s foreground colour to black. Spray a black tip on the mask to start hiding the supporting stool. This reveals bits of the empty chair from the layer below.
06 Show and hide
Spray black to remove the stool completely. If you hide bits of the girl’s dress, press X to swap the foreground colour to white and spray to reveal her missing details. Toggle back and forth between using black and white strokes to hide or show appropriate pixels. To make the overlapping skirt look translucent, choose a black tip. Set the Opacity to 48%. Spray grey strokes over the skirt to reveal some of the sofa from the layer below.
07 Reveal the lamp stand
Make the top layer (‘levitation_before03.dng’) visible by clicking its eye icon. Click the top layer’s thumbnail to target it. Choose Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All. The layer’s content will become hidden. Grab the Brush tool. Set the Foreground colour to white and increase the Opacity to 100%. Paint white on the mask to reveal the handheld lamp stand from the top layer. White strokes will also hide the lamp on the layer below.
08 Clone out the hand
Click the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Choose the Clone Stamp tool. In the Option Bar, tick Aligned and set Sample to All layers. Hold down Alt and click to sample some of the lamp stand’s unobstructed wooden shaft ,and then spray these pixels over the hand to hide it. If necessary, sample and clone bits of wall over any traces of the original lamp and the person supporting it.
09 Add a shadow
Create a new transparent layer. Choose Edit>Fill. Use 50% Gray. Click OK. Set the layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay. Grab the Burn tool. Set Range to Midtones and Exposure to 16%. Spray a soft tip on the sofa to add the girl’s shadow. Feel free to reduce the shadow layer’s Opacity to 88% for a more subtle shadow effect. This subtle tonal tweak helps blend the separate components together more effectively.
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