A few weeks ago, a news anchor for one of the local stations sent me this link: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/rachel-hulin-flying-baby that showed a baby “flying” above the kitchen sink, the bed, some stacks of hay, etc…I love the photos, but I immediately thought about all the people who would look at them and think “hm…I wonder how she got those photos. Tossed the baby? Dropped him? Hung him from the ceiling? Let’s try it!” Ugh…
Anyone that knows me in person knows how passionate I am about photography, but I’m even MORE passionate about baby safety when shooting. It is unacceptable for someone to attempt some of these complex newborn/baby shots and poses (which are – or SHOULD be – most often, composites) without knowing how.
On that website I listed above, they say that the photographer didn’t want to divulge how she achieved her photos. Obviously I don’t KNOW how she did it and I’m not going to claim to know, but I got very similar (if not exact) results with the technique I’ll show here. I’m not trying to burst her bubble of secrecy, I’m trying to show that you can most definitely achieve these types of shots very very safely.
NEVER toss a baby. NEVER hang a baby in one of those crocheted pouches. NEVER balance a baby precariously on top of something (a few I’ve seen – guitars, pumpkins, tree stumps…). ALWAYS look at photos that inspire you to try something similar and think “would that be safe if the baby was really in that position?” “Is there more than what meets the eye here?” “Was this accomplished in Photoshop?”
Okay, SO without further adieu…
This is a fairly simple technique. First, I set my camera on the nightstand in our hotel room. I didn’t want to hand-hold this because I wanted this frame and the next to be from the exact same height/angle/etc. So, first a shot of the empty corner (these first two are straight out of the camera):
Then, my studly husband waltzed in with Kylie (our 7 1/2 month old), and held her in a way that his arms weren’t in the way of any part of her body. If I could do this again, I’d have him move his left hand back a bit and close his fingers as much as he felt comfortable with, but he was on his way out the door for work and this is the best I got. (:
In Photoshop, I layered the empty photo over the photo with my loves in it. I lowered the opacity of the top layer (the blank one) to about 50%, masked the area of the top layer where she was (you can just erase if you don’t know how to mask, though I recommend you learn masking because it’s much easier to erase and bring back parts of the layer), and brought the opacity back to 100%. Then I ‘shopped out his hands on her belly (but please don’t look too close, I am not necessarily proud of that cloning job. Ha (: I might have done better had I spent more time on it!). I wanted my photo to have a dreamy, hazy feel so I messed with the colors and contrast, and added a haze. Voila!
I am SO in love with this photo and the technique. There will be much more “flying” for Kylie to do over the next little while, so watch for more magical Peter Pan-esque photos. My sweet husband’s arms will be getting a workout!
Edited to add: One issue you might have in trying to accomplish this process is the autofocus (especially if you’re using a point & shoot, not a DSLR). When there’s nobody in the frame, the autofocus will not be focusing on the space where Kylie was floating, it would have been focusing behind her, on that wall. That would have thrown off the focus (as in, the photo with Kylie in the frame would have been sharp on her and a bit blurry behind her, where the empty frame would have been sharp on the wall behind her). In this photo it wouldn’t have been too bad since the wall was so close, but in a situation where the focus point will fall over something much farther back, it would be a huge issue. So…if you have a DSLR, your lens has a switch for autofocus. I actually wrote out my steps above backward – first I took the picture of Daryl/Kylie and then I took the blank one, and here’s why: I set my autofocus point, autofocused on her, took the shot, then I turned my autofocus to manual focus so it would stay where it was, and snapped the blank picture. If you have a point and shoot, it will be more tricky. The main option I can think of will be to press your shutter partially down (so it focuses), then once it focuses, have your subject move out of the frame and press the button the rest of the way down to take the picture.