The Food Levitation Effect revealed: Submit your own Photos and win attractive Prizes from Canon

Ok, its time to reveal how these series of floating food fotos are taken.

Some of the theories are very imaginative indeed and although I used one specific trick, the other theories just might work as well.

Those of you who guessed that I used a toothpick got it right. This optical illusion is based on the same principles as the Balducci levitation technique which is used by David Blaine in his street magic. Essentially it is just a matter of giving the illusion of a floating object by playing with the line of sight.

Here is my explanation of why this trick works:

1. Most of us assume that the supporting structure would be directly placed under any object, so in this case when the toothpick is placed behind the onion, it just does not seem as if it should be able to balance. When placed at the correct angle, the brain is fooled to believing that the onion is floating.

2. The effect is enhanced by the fact that the background is blurred while the object is clear. Even without the toothpick, it will look very distinct. This is achieved by taking the photo with a large aperture ie a small f stop, in this case f2.8. The blurred effect is also enhanced when it is taken at the zoom end of the lens which in this case is 70mm.

3. It is important for the basket to be in the picture as it serves as a frame of reference to enhance the effect. When we look at the picture, the eye perceives the height of the basket to be around 5 cm and so when the it sees the onion at the same level as the rim of the basket, it enhances the illusion of the floating effect.

On the earlier occasion, I took the pau picture with a leftover pau just when we were about to leave the restaurant. It was just one of those things that suddenly struck me when I was contemplating whether I should just finish off the pau rather than having it go to waste.

The pau is bigger and heavier than the onion, so I had to balance it on 2 toothpicks. I was quite lucky that the toothpicks fit snugly into the gaps of the bamboo steamer. There wasn’t much time so the photos did not come out as well as the onion shots. I had to cheat a bit by removing a some shadows with photoshop, which is why I did not show this photo in my first post as I cannot claim that is has not been “photoshopped”. If I had a bit more time, I could have just moved my camera just a fraction higher and taken the perfect shot. This angle actually works better than the previous picture I posted.

Anyway, there you have it. Now you too can try taking some levitating food photos.

I spoke with the good people at Canon and managed to get them to run a competition so that you can also showcase your floating food photos on their digitaldreams.com.sg website.

Here are the rules:

1. The theme is levitating food. You can use any technique you like to achieve the effect but please no pies in midair on route to someone’s face. It has to look as if it is just hovering in mid air.

2. No alteration of the photo is allowed. The photo must be submitted without being “photoshopped”.

3. The photos have to be resized to 800×600 pixels

4. You are allowed to submit as many entries as you like. Entries are to be sent to: [email protected]

5. Photos will be displayed on Canon’s digitaldreams.com.sg website.
(Some photos have already started coming in so you can click on the link to view them)

6. Please include your name, email and contact number when you submit your photos. Put contact number as your filename.

7. Closing Date is 30 April and winners will be notified. The judge’s decision is final and so on and so forth, blah blah blah.

Here are some of the prizes you stand to win:


Canon Powershot A1100IS

The grand winner will walk away with Canon’s latest A series Powershot A1100IS camera which features 12.1mega pixel images and their latest Smart Auto mode (an improved Easy mode), Motion Detection and Face Detection that can detect up to 35 faces.


Canon EOS 5D Mk II miniature with 1GB flash memory

The 3 best entries will win a Canon EOS 5D Mk II miniature with 2GB flash memory.

Many thanks to Canon Singapore for sponsoring the competition.

You can view the photos at www.digitaldreams.com.sg/food which will be updated regularly throughout the length of the competition.

Remember to submit your photos to: [email protected]

I look forward to seeing your levitating food photos!

Read comments from our readers in the previous two posts here and here.