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How I Made This Photo of a Girl ‘Falling’ Asleep

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I’ve always found that moment right before falling asleep fascinating. When you let go of your thoughts and fall into the land of dreams. For a long time I wanted to create an image about this, and last year I got the opportunity that was the perfect start.

The Girl

The idea for this project was to have a person in a room floating weightlessly, capturing that moment of falling to sleep.

I figured that the best way to make the fabric of the clothes and the hair of the model to appear weightless would be to shoot it underwater.

Last year I got invited to United Arab Emirates to the XPOSURE festival (November 2017) to exhibit and speak about my work. Apart from that, they had also built a huge water tank for the festival, where underwater shootings and workshops would take place. They asked me if I wanted to shoot something as well and I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to start working on this project.

Having no previous experience of underwater photo shoots, I decided that the best way to be in control of the shoot would be to shoot from outside the tank. By pressing the lens orthogonality towards the glass underneath a black cloth, I would minimize distortions and unwanted reflections to get as clear a view of the model as possible.

In terms of lighting, I had a large softbox as the main light source from above and a smaller warmer light from the left shot through the glass. The water was clear and by compensating the white balance I could make it look as if the model appeared to hover weightlessly in the tank. The very talented underwater model Krysia Makiela did a fantastic job sleep-floating for me during this session.

The Room

After shooting the model I had a good starting point for the rest of the image. I knew that I wanted a lot of things happening in the room so I started looking for different props I could use. I photographed a room with a cold flash outside the window and a smaller warm flash disguised as a bedside lamp to the left.

I then started shooting the different objects in various positions, some of them supported by fishing line and some by simply holding them up.

I combined all the pieces of the puzzle in Photoshop together with the model. Being consistent with light and perspective made this process quite straightforward but I deliberately let it take time to make sure I would be happy with the end result.

See the process of how it was created in the video below:


I would like to thank Simon Newton and the Xposure festival for giving me the opportunity to shoot in the tank and I would like to thank the underwater model Krysia Makiela for helping me bring this idea to life.


About the author: Erik Johansson is a photographer and artist from Sweden based in Prague, Czech Republic. His work can be described as surreal scenes created by combining different photographs. Erik works on both personal and commissioned projects with clients all around the world. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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