Week #13: Levitation

To be shot and submitted between Sunday, Mar 22 and Sunday, Mar 29 (noon, Eastern)

It’s going to be an uplifting week! (Buckle up, you’re going to hear that pun again.) It’s levitation week!

The goal of the challenge is to simulate levitation. We recommend two different methods, based on your experience level. Each offers a great learning opportunity. (Yes, you’re welcome to get your shot any other way you wish, but these methods below will help you practice some basic skills!)

1. Fast Shutter Speed (The “Basic” Method)

This technique will help demonstrate one of the core tools of photography: shutter speed. The faster the shutter speed (the quicker the shutter opens and closes, allowing in less light), the sharper the “action” will be in your photo.

So if you photograph someone jumping with a shutter speed of 1/1000ths of a second, you’re capturing just that sliver of a moment, and your subject will be frozen in the air. On the other hand, if you use a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second, you’re capturing the action for a longer time (because the shutter is open for longer), and so you will see the blur of the jumper.

To fake the appearance of levitation, you’ll want to reduce blur to make it appear as though your subject is floating, which mean… right! A faster shutter speed! Think of what else you can do to make it appear as though your subject is levitating, rather than jumping.

jumping levitation


Shutter Speed: 1/2000th of a second
Aperture: f4
ISO: 800


2. Photoshop Masking (The More Advanced Method)

If you have been wondering about Photoshop masking, now’s the time to dive in! Masking is one of Photoshop’s most powerful tools – allowing you to manipulate just parts of an image, non-destructively (in other words, you can undo your changes).

The basic premise is to take 2 shots on a tripod: one “clean plate” that is just the scene without your subjects, and one that includes your model on a stool, or chair (or table or ladder or whatever!). Then bring both images into Photoshop and “mask out” the stool, revealing the background. Abracadabra – Levitation! Check out this animated GIF to see it in action.

Levitation Tutorial

Tips and Tuts for this week:


Looking for more inspiration? Check out our 2013 Levitation album.

If you’re going with the ‘jumping method’ you must check out Tokyo-based photographer Natsumi Hayashi, who has built an international reputation with her levitation-a-day photos. She uses a fast shutter speed (1/500 and faster) rather than Photoshop masking. Check out her site here.

Extra Credit: “3+ Levitators”

Let’s raise the bar, shall we? (That was a levitation pun!) For this week’s Extra Credit – include at least 3 levitating elements. Ideally, all these “levitators” should come together to tell a story. Let your imagination run wild! While you could simply get a group of people jumping – try to push yourself to be as creative as possible!

Again, it is not necessary to work in this Extra Credit piece. It’s extra credit!