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Photo Tutorial — Levitating Object

Published by Diana Tula · January 30th 2013

There are many cool photos of levitating objects and people on 500px. We wanted to share the secrets behind such photos with you and Steven Kowalski was generous to volunteer. In this article Steven reveals the step-by-step process behind “do the dew” photo giving away his post processing tricks.

Step 1: Taking the photo

I’ve been slowly working on a collection of commercial art projects over the past few months. When deciding on a product to use, I knew I wanted to do a photograph where the product in question would illuminate in some capacity.  Since I only have three different colored gels for my lights, I wanted to work within this limitation and chose an item based on my options (I know it’s possible to adjust in post-processing, but I’m trying to “shoot it right!” people). My first thought was to use the orange gel with a Dorito shell taco from Taco Bell, however the nearest Taco Bell was 7 city miles away. Instead, we decided on a bottle of Mountain Dew.  Here are our two base images:

It was important to get these two shots, one holding the bottle at the top and one at the bottom. So that later they could be merged in a post-processing program, erasing the parts where the arm shows. Make sure when photographing the two images that the lighting is the same for all photos and that both are shot from exactly the same angle. It might be best to use a tripod until you get a hang of this technique.

Using the two images above (and another one for the face), I merged them together using layer masks and removed my buddy’s arm using clone stamping and content aware fills. Then I merged all layers and this is what I was left with:

Step 2: Lightroom

Aside from being a composite with a greenish glow/tint over the face, which was added later in Photoshop by painting green on a soft light layer, the image above is more or less straight out of camera. As you can see, it’s a bit weird. I wanted to make this a bit more mysterious. To do so, I started by importing that image into Lightroom.

The Lightroom adjustments made were specific to this photograph and my taste, this might not work for your photograph in the same way, but play around with these settings regardless.

Here are the settings I used:

1. I went to “Develop” in Lightroom and started adjusting HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance) for each colour. You can find it in your Lightroom under “HSL / Color / B&W”.

2. Next I moved on to “Tone Curve”. Reducing shadows and increasing other parameters.

3. Then went to “Basic” settings to adjust temperature, tint, exposure an saturation. Shifted temperature and tint towards blues and greens to reinforce the presence of cool colours in this photo. Decreased saturation in order to tone down the bright almost fluorescent colours. And added exposure to increase brightness to the photo overall.

After all the Lightroom adjustments the resulting image was this:

Step 3: Photoshop processing

As you remember Photoshop adjustments already have been made with two photos merged, arm erased and green glow added to the face with paint. But it needed more work. So far, the image was coming together nicely, but the crop could use some work. Photo was imported to Photoshop with saved Lightroom adjustments for further work.

1. Changed the crop to a standard landscape 6×4.

2. To fill in the sides of the photo, I used a simple Photoshop tool called “Content-Aware.”  By highlighting the negative space and right clicking “Fill”, you can select Content-Aware from the drop down menu:

3. After that go ahead and apply Content Aware to the other side. Though the results may not be perfect, Content Aware usually does a “pretty okay” job on its own. To fix the places where Content Aware seems a bit off, simply use the Clone Stamp tool with a very soft brush at 100% opacity/flow. The final results looked like this:

4. At this point I was really liking where we’re going but I still wanted to add more depth to the photo, while drawing people’s attention towards the center product of the image. The solution was simple — blur. I added an Iris Blur filter in Photoshop:

5. To give the photo a more vintage/mysterious look textures can go a long way in helping you achieve some really nifty effects. I applied two textures that I bought from Phlearn’s texture pack. You can also download Potoshop textures for free, just search google.

6. The first layer created a foggy/smokey element around the photo while the second added a nice grain/film feel. Just layering textures over a photo won’t work, you always need to blend layers and adjust transparency if needed for fine tuning. Beauty is in the details. For this I recommend playing around with Layer Blending Modes. For this photo I used Lighten and Soft Light.

7. After that, I exported the JPEG, with all saved changed done in Photoshop. I the opened that JPEG in Lightroom where I lowered the Vibrance by about 10. The final mage was this:

Thanks to Steven Kowalski for sharing this tutorial and thank you for reading!

Looking for more tutorials? Check out previously featured tutorial "Mirror, mirror", it is a mirroring tutorial by Ildiko Neer that shows how a simple photo can be transformed into a work of fine art.

Let’s share your skills and educate those new to photography. If you have a tutorial you’d like to share, be it in shooting, post production or top tips for getting your work out there please get in touch, email


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Tierney Teagan  about 2 years ago
I just joined 500 a couple of days ago. However I'm amazed at the level of talent which is before my eyes. Awesome tutorial!
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Diana Tula  about 2 years ago
Hey Tierney! Welcome to 500px and I hope that you will continue to enjoy our community. Make sure to come back to the blog for more tutorials posted each week.
Amit Shaw  about 2 years ago
Nice one.
Ashish Jha  about 2 years ago
great idea
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Lucas Montalvo  about 2 years ago
Thanks for sharing!!
Mauricio Holc  about 2 years ago
thnks for sharing!! excellent
Mark Wisecarver (inactive)  about 2 years ago
Awesome Account
Meow's Productions  about 2 years ago
Wonderful Article! I am gonna try it!
Zeeshan Naqash  about 2 years ago
thank you will try it
Zeeshan Naqash  about 2 years ago
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Robert Sohovich  about 2 years ago
I'd have just hung the bottle by a fishing line and cloned/spot healed it out.
Steven Kowalski  about 2 years ago
Rae Paladin  about 2 years ago
great tutorial :-)
Enoc Valenzuela  about 2 years ago
Buena idea... =)
Oisin Conolly  about 2 years ago
excellent tutorial! and beautiful image. Thanks!
Y.C. Wang  about 2 years ago
Great information, thanks!
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Stefano Viola  about 2 years ago
Really a nice article...thanks ;-)
Nikki Commatose  about 2 years ago
Great article, thanks!

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