This photo combines a couple of ideas. The first is levitation. If you Google “levitation photos”, you’ll find some wonderful examples of photos in which people are floating in mid-air. It’s a neat little trick and I’m always looking for a new excuse to do one. The other idea I’ve tried to incorporate is from the Harry Potter book/film series. Originally I wanted to create the impression that I’m floating high above everything else, but I couldn’t figure out how to create the illusion. So, I settled for creating the impression of speed, as though I’m flying at speed in the midst of a game of Quidditch.
In sports photography, the kind of effect you’re seeing is called panning. You normally see it in motorsports and horse racing. The motion blur in the background is the natural result of tracking a subject as it moves. The trouble is, this photo I’ve taken here is a self-portrait, so the motion blur you’re seeing is a 100% Photoshop job. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Take the levitation photo
My props in this photo consisted of a broom from the local market and a replica Harry Potter wand that I acquired from FAO Schwarz in New York (they have the most wonderful toys there). I took this photo at a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second to eliminate any possible blur that might be caused by my rising and falling through the air.
Step 2: Cut yourself out
Go to the layers tab and create a copy of the background (above). This lets you work on the image without affecting the original. Now, working on the layer called “Background copy”, deep-etch yourself out and delete everything in the background (below, right).
Step 3: Creating motion blur
Now, make the layer called “Background copy” invisible by unchecking the little eyeball icon next to it. Then, select the layer called “Background”. This means you can work on the ‘Background’ layer without affecting whatever you’ve done to the ‘Background copy’.
Once you’ve got the ‘Background’ layer selected, select Filter > Blur > Motion Blur (as above) and create as much (or little) motion blur as you desire. Note that I’ve gone completely blurred as a result, but don’t worry – that’s what the ‘Background copy’ layer is for.
Step 4: Combine the layers
Make the ‘Background copy’ layer visible again by checking the eyeball icon next to it. A clean, unblurred version of myself appears over the background, as though the camera is panning with me in rapid movement. Select Layers > Flatten to turn it back into a flat image and save it in whatever format you want. I added a few extra effects like shadows and lens flares for a bit of fun.
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