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A few years ago when I did a year-long photo self-portrait project along with a group of other Flickr.com members, one type of self-portrait photo nearly all of us took was a levitation photo. It was a type of optical illusion that could only be accomplished using the tripod, Adobe Photoshop, and lots of patience.
Levitation photography is both creative and powerful, and though we know it is done with trick photography and photo processing skills, it is the kind of photo that most photographers will want to try at least once. These days you may not need expensive photo editing software to shoot levitation photos, as a recently released iPhone and iPad app called Levitagram ($1.99) enables you to create levitation photos in a few relatively easy steps.
There are some powerful, creative examples of levitation photography, but you can start learning the technique with a few simple objects in your kitchen, bedroom, or office.
Shooting With Levitagram
The Levitagram app includes a three-step overview that will tell you how to shoot a levitation photo. It essentially involves taking one photo with an object
sitting on a box or a person lying on a stool, followed by another photo of just the background.
What the instructions don’t point out enough is how important it is to use a tripod. Making a steady shot in which the iPhone camera does not move while taking the two photos will make creating the illusion a lot easier.
I tried out Levitagram by setting up a camera on a white box. I used the exposure and focusing features of the iPhone camera to take the shot. Another tip is to make sure that there’s a good contrast between the foreground and background objects.
I took another shot, this time of the background only, with the camera and box photo removed. I was careful not to move the iPhone camera.
Creating the Optical Illusion
Levitagram makes it easier to create the optical illusion because it aligns the two photos on top of each other, then allows you to use a layer mask to reveal the background photo beneath.
Now, all you have to do is use the easier brush to remove the parts of the photo (e.g. the box or stool) you don’t want seen in the final photo. This step may take several tries, especially in detailed areas. Because of the larger size screen real estate on the iPad version, this process may be easier.
You will need to pinch with two fingers and zoom into the main object or person in the photo. This way you can carefully remove the box or stool in the photo by selecting the eraser tool and pressing your finger down on the object to begin wiping it away.
Unlike Photoshop, Levitagram doesn’t include a selection tool that might allow you to select an object in the layer mask and then easily remove unwanted parts in a photo. Levitagram does however include two preset brush sizes, in addition to a small square brush that may help you with small detailed removals.
If you look closely at my final levitation photo, I had a difficult time editing the strap part of the levitated camera. Using a smaller brush would have helped with that process.
Levitagram also includes a collection of automatic exposure, enhancement and editing tools (see above photo) that you can apply to your your merged image. The blur tool for example is useful for putting more focus on the foreground object.
I tried another levitation photo using again a simple household object, and that time the results were better. Notice also that Levitagram includes Instagram type filters that help bring a creative edge to your levitation photos.
As you might expect with an iPhone app, Levitagram allows you to share your photos on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Images can also be printed straight from the app, as well as emailed or copied.
The app also includes a stream of inspirational photos, some of which I quite frankly don’t think were done using Levitagram. Some of these images suggest that levitation photos are not the only type of photos you can shoot and create with Levitagram. The app also includes a self-timer, and a clap or sound shutter activation for self-portraits, useful for also shooting self-portrait clones.
A Very Fun App
We have reviewed several iPhone camera apps, but I find Levitagram especially fun and creative. There are a few features I would like to see added, such as a single tap Undo button, but kudos to the developers for creating a fun and relatively easy to use photo app. Let us know what you think of it in the comments, below.
Download: Levitagram ($1.99)
Have you created levitation photos before? Have you used Levitagram? Add your comments, below.