Michael Raskop is a German photographer based in Lucerne, Switzerland, and is the guy responsible for this set of cool artistic images of iPhones seemingly flying effortlessly in mid-air. Cult of Mac got in touch with him to find out how – and why – he made them.
Michael has a heavily-used white MacBook and a Canon EOS 5D Mark I in his kit bag.
“I am a passionate photographer and I like pure, functional design. No fancy automatic modes as these tend to give you results, but not the ones you wanted,” he says.
If you want to take similar photos of your own, you don’t need a great deal of fancy equipment, not even a proper photo studio. Just a darkened room, an empty table top, and a few minutes to set up. Here’s how Michael did it.
“Any DSLR on a halfway sturdy tripod will do. An off-center flash triggered by a transceiver (these aren’t expensive, about $40).
“The flash was around 70-80 degrees to the left, but at the same height as the camera, slightly above the table, which I covered with bed linen. This height setup is quite common for levitation pictures like this, as otherwise you cannot really see the objects floating – they need to appear as if they’re in the ‘sky’.
“As you can see from this behind-the-scenes image, everything’s homemade, it all fits into a small room. Anyone can do this.”
So, you’ve got your camera on its tripod, your shooting area all fixed up. What are the best camera settings?
“Try this: shutter speed of 1/200s, aperture at f/4-8, and use a neutral density filter. You want the flash as the only light source. You want the camera to be taking a totally black image when the flash isn’t used. A bit of distance between your subject and the next object behind it will help. An extra transceiver comes in handy acting as a remote control, if you can manage it.
“Set everything to manual. You simply don’t want to be trying to use auto focus or aperture priority mode.”
The simplest trick Michael used for these photos was holding the ‘flying’ objects with his hands. It’s just a case of ensuring that the hands – at least, the parts of them supporting the gadgets – aren’t visible in shot. Because the backgrounds are all completely black, this makes editing them out much easier.
“Take the standing charger photo,” says Michael. “It’s pretty easy to do. Get the gear ready, hold the charger on top of the cable in place. Let go and press the release button of the transceiver. It doesn’t take too many tries to get the timing right.
“You need to do a bit of Photoshop work for the ‘multiplicity’ photos, such as the floating iPhone connected to the cable.
“First of all, take a background picture. Then another one of the iPhone on the cable, using your hands to position it. Just watch your fingers – they shouldn’t be touching anything that can be seen on the later picture. Voila.
“Now open up Photoshop. The blank goes as the background, the one with your hand on as a layer. Layermask the iPhone and combine both pictures.
“There’s one more thing you can do in Aperture. Shiny metal, like the side of the iPhone, can cause some unwanted reflections. Do a black and white transform in Aperture, and they become hardly noticeable. Straighten, sharpen, vignette, contrast, exposure, and that’s it.
“It might sound very complicated, but the whole process probably only takes about quarter of an hour.”
What inspired Michael to practise his photography on Apple products, in particular?
“The minimalistic design cried out for some artistic photos. Black and white photos using hard strobe lights work best with simple subjects.
Plus, you don’t have to worry so much about composition. Apple products always look great. That was what they were designed for.
“Apple stuff is everywhere now, everyone knows about it. I wanted to show them in a new, unusual way. The pictures needed to be minimalistic, pure and artless. Not that there aren’t anymore objects one could use, but this was one of the most obvious around here. And we are never short of Apple products in this house.”