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Photographing water balloons

Bursting water balloons is fun to do and great to photograph.

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We all remember filling balloons up with water and throwing them like grenades, watching as they burst, sending a cascade of water gushing over our friends. Well now you get to reminisce, well for the first part any way, as we use fast shutter speeds to capture the shower that explodes from a balloon filled with water once it's burst.

Water Balloon

Unless you want your kit to get wet you need to stand back and bring the balloon to you with a longer focal length. You also need a tripod to keep your camera steady and focused on the balloon while you rapidly fire off the shots.

As there's the possibility of water bursting all over it's best to stay away from the electrics and take your kit outside. Here there's plenty of light that you can't short with a splash of water but you may need an ND filter if it's a particularly bright day to keep some of the sun out. You'll also need an assistant to hold and pop the balloon for you.

Fill several balloons with water and put them in a container so they don't move and burst before you want them to. You'll need a few balloons as sod's law says you won't get your shot the first time and it will just save you a walk back to the house. As you'll be using an aperture that gives front to back sharpness so all of the explosion is captured. Use a plain background such as a garden wall or a hedge to make sure focus stays on the balloon. Don't worry if you don't have one as you can blur the background after in Photoshop and add a vignette to draw the viewer's eye to the balloon.

To freeze the water as it explodes out of the balloon you need a fast shutter speed, 1/250-1/300 is a good place to start. You need to be on continuous shooting mode and be focused on the balloon, ready for when it bursts. It can be a little hit and miss but we found it was more successful when the person holding the balloon shouted 'go' to tell the photographer to hold the shutter button down then a few seconds after that they burst the balloon. We also found we got the best shapes when we burst the balloon from the top but do try it from different directions and see what you get. If you want a more colourful shot try adding food colouring to the water but just be careful when the balloon bursts as it can stain so don't wear your best clothes when playing around with this technique. Try dropping the balloon so it bursts on a surface too and capture the wave of water as it goes up then washes down and around the remains of the balloon.

To ensure the colour you capture is the colour you keep, use Datacolor - the Colour Management Experts.

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