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Fun With Photography - Water Balloons

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Fun With Photography - Water Balloons © Samantha & Liz Masoner licensed to About.com, Inc.
There are some events that happen way too fast for the human eye to register. Photos that capture these moments are almost guaranteed to get people to look closely at them. This idea came from a post in our forum that was in response to our Action Assignment. On a safety note - I used a BB gun to avoid showing a hand with a pin in the image - play it safe and be careful. Do NOT try that without a safe backstop for the BBs and make sure you have a responsible adult supervising! No one wants to lose an eye or break a camera lens to get a photo.

    Items Needed
  • Water Balloons
  • Stand to Hang Water Balloons (a clothesline will work)
  • String or heavy-Duty Thread
  • Tripod
  • Method of Popping Balloon (darts work as well as BBs)
Step one
Fill several water balloons (the shot shown took me about 20 balloons to get) and tie a length of string to each below the knot.

Step two
Tie balloons to your stand. You can use a background stand, clothesline, or anything else horizontal. Be sure to set this up where you have a safe backstop to the side to stop your popping mechanism. You will also want an uncluttered background.

Step three
Set your camera on the tripod and prefocus on the balloons. You will want to use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 of a second to freeze the water and a shallow depth of field (F-stop around 5.6) to blur the background. If you don't have manual control of your camera you can still use the action setting to get some interesting effects.

Step four
Have an assistant stand to the side of the balloons for popping. You will be popping the balloons from a 90 degree angle to the camera so that the camera (or photographer) is not hit by the popping mechanism. BB's or darts are an effective way to pop the balloons. Again, PLEASE be safe with this. Anyone not old enough they have their own home should have parental permission and supervision!

Step five
You're ready to take a photo. Call out a ready count to your assistant and tell them when to pop a balloon. Don't be disappointed if you miss the shot several times. It takes practice to get your timing right. You have to consider the reaction time of yourself, your assistant, and the speed at which the popping mechanism (dart, BB, etc) travels to the balloon.

    Hints
  • Use manual focus and prefocus on the balloons popping them.

  • Use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 of a second to freeze the water in midair.

  • Do this project OUTSIDE for safety reasons.

  • Don't use your flash. You will likely get nasty reflections off the water and wash out details in the surface texture.

  • If you have a way to do so, set up a background behind the balloons to avoid clutter.

  • Shoot level with the balloons. If your camera is much above or below the level of the balloons the water ball will not be as dramatic and may look distorted.

  • Be aware your method of popping the balloon will affect the water ball shape. If you look closely at the right and left sides of my water ball you will see the entry indention on the right and an extension on the left where the BB is about to leave the balloon.

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