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how to create aerial photos with the camera toss via slrlounge.com Time Out With Tanya

How to Create Dynamic Aerial Photos with the Camera Toss|Matt Shumate

By Tanya Goodall Smith on December 19th 2014

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera and you can come along, if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here so you’ll never miss a Time Out.

how to create aerial photos with the camera toss via slrlounge.com

The first time I saw one of Matt Shumate’s aerial wedding photos, I was intrigued. Whenever he posts one on his Facebook page (you should totally follow him, trust me), they get a lot of attention. Everyone is always asking how he creates these images? Drone? Very tall ladder? When I found out he actually tosses his Nikon D3S camera with Sigma 12-24 mkII lens in the air I was like, “No. Way!” I had to see it for myself.

how to create dynamic aerial photos with the camera toss via slrlounge.com

Luckily, Matt is a friend and a really good sport, because he agreed to be a guinea pig in my very first attempt at creating a video interview. In this behind-the-scenes look at his camera toss technique, he walks us through the whole process of creating these seemingly impossible shots.

how-to-camera-toss-matt-shumate

We hiked to the top of a nature preserve area here in Spokane where there are some rocky cliffs and huge boulders among marshy little ponds. With his Nikon, including battery grip and a radio trigger, he simply tosses the camera in the air, giving it a little spin, and takes several shots from different angles. We included a section about gear in the video. Make sure you watch through the end after the credits for an extra special bonus.

Isn’t that cool???? If you’re curious to see how Matt edits himself out of the images for the final composition, you’re in luck because he made a tutorial. Voila! Watch it here:

I could not have made this video without the help of some very special friends. Thanks to Jessica Mumm for doing a fantastic job at editing all my footage, Clara Wilson for being a second shooter and taking some behind the scenes shots and Robin Villines in her modeling debut! We had a fun time and I think we made a pretty decent video with very minimal gear. Would you like to know how I did it?

CREDITS: Photographs by Matt Shumate are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at workstoryphotography.com.

59 Comments

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  1. Mark Romine

    Hey Matt, glad I was able to help you out! Keep up the good work man!

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  2. Mark Romine

    I think I will stick to trying to capture real moments. Lots of these overheads look pretty fakey.

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  3. Graham Curran

    I think that if I was an insurer I would consider this reckless and would be disinclined to pay out..

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  4. Basit Zargar

    Sorry i love my gear
    I am not gonna do this :)

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  5. aaron febbo

    Thats rad ! seriously awesome photos ! Dangerous for sure but i guess if your not too worried about it dropping then why not ! I think ill try it with one of my old crop sensor bodies!

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  6. Anastasia Borisyuk

    Looks awesome and this works for this particular photographer, but we definitely shouldn’t all be doing it :) Especially people like me who are 99% sure they’d drop it, I was never great at catching!

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  7. David Hall

    Way too dangerous for my taste. Too much of a chance you’ll drop the camera… even worse, hit your subject with the flying object. Not happening here.

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  8. Megan Williams

    I hope that I have the balls to do this one do. At this time I can’t afford a replacement camera if my hand-eye coordination decides to fail me.

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  9. Nick Viton

    Matt, what’s the reason for spinning the camera when tossing it up?

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    • matt shumate

      The cenfrifugal force keeps it pointed down.

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    • matt shumate

      Love all the experts chiming in! Isn’t there a Canon/Nikon debate somewhere you’re missing?

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    • Nick Viton

      “Love all the experts chiming in! Isn’t there a Canon/Nikon debate somewhere you’re missing?” Matt – was I claiming to be an expert? And what’s with the “Canon/Nikon debate” comment? Perhaps you’re projecting or reading into my question too much?

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    • John Sheehan

      I agree with Nick, it did come across as a little snarky and mean. Nick said nothing bad about Matt’s technique and asked a valid question about spinning the camera.

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    • matt shumate

      I apologize Nick. I didn’t mean this as a response to you at all. It was meant for the bottom of the post where there are numerous comments that are basically irrelevant to the article. I’m not sure why it was reposted as a reply to you.

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    • matt shumate

      You’re absolutely right John. It wasn’t meant as a response to Nick at all. You can see I sincerely answered his question. The snark was meant to match the snark in comments posted by others at the bottom. It was a mistake that it was labeled as a response.

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  10. MIchael Andrew

    Just because something is different and interesting, doesn’t mean you should do it, like train track photography. There are much safer ways to get these kinds of shots, I used to do the camera toss way back in 2008, but quickly realized how risky it was to myself, others and the gear. Invest $50 into a Maven Adapter, put your camera on an extended pole, and it eliminates all these risks: http://youtu.be/TUWlkZByG5o

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  11. Jack Parkinsom

    Great video and amazing to see how it’s done! Love the final images :)

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  12. Jamie Hosmer

    Just tried it with a D90 and a kit lens. Only tossed it about 8 feet above my head. Didn’t drop the thing but the rotation is difficult to get correct. Not sure I’ll toss anything more expensive up in the air but I’m definitely going to give this a try. Anyone willing to lay on the ground and be my model?

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  13. Matthew Riley

    That was really cool. I would try if I had more than one camera and could afford a second. Might buy a cheap camera to try first.

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  14. Jason Markos

    Matt even states that this has been a great way to engage the wedding party, to make the photography part of the experience, and he gets some great shots doing. It’s his kit, his choice, and he’s making it work.

    I never played baseball, but I tempted to give this a try ;)

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    • matt shumate

      Thanks for pointing that out. I feel like it’s being missed. The experience part of of the process for the other people involved is the biggest reason why I do it. People LOVE it. Fortunately the end product is pretty rad too.

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  15. robert s

    I think it was a setup when the camera fell..similar to this
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ineSsjwIAqI

    btw it was a setup
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UHMsdhPbY0

    this throwing thing is just ridiculous. I use a monopod or even light stand with boom arm on it at times. just seems like in every way that its just not a smart idea. breaking your gear, hurting people, having to do the shot multiple times to get it right. maybe just a ploy for exposure..

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    • matt shumate

      Yup. The dropped one was a joke. The camera died while snorkeling in Hawaii a couple of years ago. I was holding on to it to use for something fun. For most people throwing the camera in the air is a bad idea. When you’ve spent your whole life throwing and catching things, it’s a piece of cake.

      My camera is most safe when it’s in the air. It’s the only part of the day when I’m 100% paying attention to it. It’s far more likely to be dropped when I’m just walking around.

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  16. Uday Arunachalam

    For a hobbyist photographer like me, throwing my life savings up in the air and hoping to catch it would be a nightmare. Love the last part of the video, I jumped from my couch yelling “oh c***” when he dropped the camera.

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  17. John Sheehan

    I’m a total klutz, so…NO…I will not be trying this.

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  18. Scott Pfau

    I’m thinking this wouldn’t be covered by equipment insurance if the insurance company knows or finds out the camera is being thrown. — I’ll stick to a mono pod or a modified painters pole.

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  19. Ryan Gentles

    Soo…i got this really tall ass ladder on hand here with me..y’know just saying is all. ( ._.)

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  20. Shawn Anderson

    Great article/video and especially liked the video showing the editing process. I freaked when he dropped the camera!!! Monopod for me thank you!!!

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  21. Brandon Silvera

    Every time the camera went up I cringed <_<

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  22. Greg Silver

    Not sure the risk outweighs the benefit. Loosing $3,000 on a nice set up by throwing it in the air isn’t my thing :)

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    • Tanya Goodall Smith

      Greg, I couldn’t do it either. This totally fit’s Matt’s style and philosophy of basically doing anything to get the shot he wants. He’s a little unconventional, which is what his clients like about him. I think that’s why it works for him.

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    • matt shumate

      If there was a risk, I wouldn’t do it either. Some people can run fast, some can jump high, some of us just have good hand/eye coordination. Lots of 3rd base playing in my background.

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  23. Steven Pellegrino

    Really enjoyable video. Before I watched it and just looked at the photos I thought to myself – “no way”, because I HATE heights. I was not expecting what he demonstrated. Very cool.

    Watching this on YouTube, one of the next videos is from DigitalRev on “How To Be A Camera Tosser”. Here’s a whole new genre I didn’t know anything about!

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  24. Samuel Seth

    Mike Larson was doing this years ago.
    http://youtu.be/F35Sn5gAhDg

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    • Pye

      Yeah, I was gonna say, I think this is definitely “Mike Larsoning” hahaha. He definitely owned this technique many years ago.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      Based on that YouTube video of Mike Larson, it looks like Matt’s technique is a bit different. Larson throws the camera up and is rotates end over end, which I think would give you less opportunity for a shot of people on the ground. With Matt’s toss, the lens stays pointing to the ground. While his camera spins, the lens is always down.

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    • Samuel Seth

      I think that one video I posted is misleading- the other videos I’ve seen of Mike has him rotating the camera with the lens pointing down. Also he uses the intravolometer feature so it fires off several shots while in the air. Looks like Mike throws his up a lot higher too. I’d still use a light stand or something though. Less PS work in the end.

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  25. Aaron Cheney

    What the heck! Ballsy for sure. For both the photographer and the client haha. Was that a fake camera he dropped at the end?

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  26. Nick DiGiallonardo

    Throw your camera in the air like you just don’t care!

    Make sure you have good hand-eye coordination or else you’ll be out a camera. Curious how the camera fared after that drop…

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    • matt shumate

      Lots & lots of baseball in my background. Throwing and catching is pretty much second nature.

      The dropped camera had already met its demise under the ocean in Hawaii. Shhhhh…

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  27. Fabio Porta

    Crazy!

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  28. Dre Rolle

    That’s really cool and ballsy, but question, how high would you say he throws the camera in the air?

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    • Tanya Goodall Smith

      Well, I’m not the best judge of distance but I would say 4 to 6 feet?

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    • matt shumate

      It’s between 15-20 feet off the ground.

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    • Dre Rolle

      Ok. Because in the video it only looked like 10ft or so which had me wondering why a 6ft (?) guy needed to toss his camera in the air just to get a extra 4ft. Now that i think about it people toss babies in the air all the time (not as high but hey) so it’s not that hard to believe people would do this with cameras. Checked out your site and its really amazin what you have up there :)

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    • matt shumate

      Yup. I’m the guy who was tossing his daughters in the air to make them laugh all the time (until they got too big). Never dropped one of them either.

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  29. Matthew Kozovski

    Make sure you have your liability insurance before you attempt.. or perhaps just a monopod??

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