Sofa Float

Continuing with yesterday’s post about my levitation experiments, here’s the second set I worked with to practice floating composite shots.

As I mentioned previously, taking the first set of photos took almost no time compared to how long I usually shoot. I got the shots in about 15 minutes, then spent a few hours noodling around with the results, and was done on the computer at a decent hour. Just as I began to put my room back together I was thinking to myself, okay, I still have some daylight here I can use to do laundry, steam the wrinkles out of some new clothes I’ve yet to wear, and exercise – and then I moved the small love seat I keep in my office up against the wall (part of my office reconstruction process when the room transitions back to that from a studio). In one quick second the thought flashed into my head that some shots levitating above that love seat would probably be pretty cool, and the wicker ottoman I used in the previous shots would just about fit on the sofa cushion for me to pose on it. Sure enough, I got the wig and the dress back on, set up the camera and lighting again, annnnnnd the rest of the day was effectively blown. Almost got out without a marathon editing session, but didn’t quite make it.

backdrop couch
The couch in question

I tossed the ottoman up there and popped off a few quick shots, then got to work with Levitation Editing Round Two:

couch float 3

As you can see, I remembered to use a fan this time to fling the hair around and create some movement. I kept having to remind myself that I didn’t have to worry about the fan showing in these shots, as I’d be layering my body over the background shot of the sofa. Trying to hide the fan in shots where I want to use it to create movement is a pain, and it was nice to be able to get it so close this time.

sofa float 1

So here’s the composite shot – not too bad, but of course there’s those shadows to worry about again. This took me awhile to get anywhere close to right, but in the end I used the darken tool in Paint Shop Pro to trace an outline around my lower body at a fairly low opacity. My first attempt at doing this wasn’t my best, but I think this worked better than yesterday’s method (which wasn’t much of a method at all). I also think having something to work against other than a white backdrop made shadowing easier, at least for me. I used the darken tool also around my body’s edges overall, as it seemed to make them less stark and more realistic.

sofa float 1 final

The end result here is okay, but the edges aren’t great, and I think it looks a little obvious. There’s also a shadow in the upper-right corner from my umbrella stand that I forgot to edit out, but I remembered to do so in the shots below.

My second attempt came out better, and started with a background shot including my dog Penny, who kept insisting on sitting on the sofa while I was trying to take my picture of it. In her defense, this love seat is more hers than mine anyway; between she and Sprocket, I never get any sitting time on this thing. I managed to get Penny off the sofa, but then she slunk down to the floor and refused to move for awhile. As soon as I thought, fine, I’ll put you in the shot too then, she of course got up and moved. By that time I’d decided it was a fine idea to keep her around, and I had to coax her back into position. She never really settled down (Penny isn’t a cooperative model, like Sprocket is) but I managed to get one taken before she split again:

backdrop couch dog
You can tell she’s not into it, though

I didn’t do any piecing together of different body parts for these shots; as I said in the previous post, I don’t at this point feel much need to do that. I just used a second shot taken when I was on the ottoman and worked with it in its entirety:

couch float 2

I tried for poses here that had cleaner lines, and that didn’t have too much going on around the sofa or the wicker, as I knew those two areas would be a bitch for me to edit away from the edges of the dress. It still provided complications, but I think I did an OK job getting this into the composite shot:

sofa float dog

Overall this was the easiest pose to work with, and Penny’s apprehension works well with the appearance my body gives of being slightly out of control. I also love it that she’s the one looking at the camera, while I am looking away.  I added shadows using the technique mentioned above, and I actually think they worked out nicely this time:

sofa float dog final

For whatever reason, the shadows really work to add the right dimension to my body floating over the sofa. Of all the levitation shots I tried Saturday, I’d have to say this one is my favorite.

I do have one more though – I had some fun poses I took while on top of the ottoman, and I wanted to get one where the hair was really blowing as we all know what a fan I am of that. So I went with this final one to edit:

couch float 1

I left the dog out of this one, as I didn’t think I could top the first one I created using her background photo. The one foot that was at rest on the sofa in this original turned out to be a bit of a bitch for me to get placed right on the background shot, and I actually had to also include a bit of the indentation from it when layering; without that it just looked like my toes were cut off. It was hard to do, and I don’t think I pulled it off in an entirely successful manner, but I worked with it as best I could:

toe couch

You can see a dark line where the layered indentation of the sofa is, at least I can, but I worked to darken the fabric around it so it didn’t stand out so much. I don’t think the shadows were quite as successful in this shot as they were in the previous one, but overall they weren’t bad. I like showing the editing steps here, as it really reveals how important those shadows are; I look awfully flat and pasted-on in the photo above in spite of my attempts to get all the edges smooth and sharp.

toe couch_final
I’ll take it though

Discovering the use of the darken tool to trace some decent shadows into the shot was a big help here, but having something aside from a white wall to put those shadows against may have also contributed to their improvement in the editing of this set. I do think that foot ended up getting darkened too much in all of this, but aside from that I think this one works. At the least, this is further than I’ve ever been able to take a process like this, and the end results make me happy. I feel like I’ve discovered some techniques I can build on in the future, and I can begin to realize some new visions I’ve had in mind for some time. I’m excited to see where I can go next.

For that last shot, I did add a filter to it after all the processing was done, just to see if it added a little punch to the photo. Still not sure if I like the one above or the filtered one below better; let me know which you like better in the comments, if you don’t mind!

toe couch_final2


10 thoughts on “Sofa Float

  1. Great set again. Penny is a doll. Do you take three separate shots and then outline yourself and paste yourself into them in Photoshop? I am not great at that, if that is how you do it, especially given that your hair looks perfectly copied and pasted in this. Just curious…cute sofa, too.

    • No, just two shots. One of the background scene and then a second of me on the stool. Then I basically copy myself out of the second shot and paste myself into the first one (not using proper terminology but I don’t really know it)

      • Ah! Well, I think you do it expertly, regardless of the terminology. Clever and effective result! I can see all kinds of possibilities here with you pasting things into the scene, or yourself into outdoor scenes. Like, couldn’t you just take a bunch of shots out in various locations and then paste yourself in?

      • At this point, only if I can also shoot myself in the same spot – which is sometimes doable. That’s how I am able to effectively crop myself out of one shot and into another – because the background outlining my body is the same as in the background, if that makes sense. If those two things don’t match (if I shot myself in front of a white background then tried to paste myself in front of a black one, for example) there would be too much of the white edges showing around my body up against the black. Hope that makes sense.

  2. MM,

    I liked the one with Penny in it the best. It looks like she’s thinking, “Oh, Oh. I think Mama’s gonna bounce off the sofa land on me again!”

    Hm. I think the reason I like the Penny shot the best, technically speaking, is because there is some light between you and the sofa. (due to the pattern?) This gives me the sense that you are floating apart from it, whereas in the other pictures, the shadow gives me the impression that there is no space between you and the back…as if you were resting against it or kneeling, sitting on it.

    I’ve attempted to do some picture editing myself in the past using an older version of PSP. Blending any edge to lighten is such a pain. I wish I knew an easy way to do it.

    I’ll be technically quiet from now on, if you want me to. 🙂

    • Not at all – I do see what you mean. I liked that photo best too, but I didn’t catch that as the reason. I have no idea how to do shadows so that is a good point to consider. Perhaps that’s why that one works best.

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