Photography ideas

Home Photography Ideas: Flash & Splash With Water Balloon Portraits

Watch the video: Home Photography Ideas – Water Balloon Portraits

A water balloon can be a wonderful accessory for the action portrait. Inspired by portraits of photographer Tim Tadder, the exploding balloons almost look like wigs or water hats when frozen halfway through the explosion.

In addition to all the water fun, this project is also an exercise in lighting. In order to freeze the fast action of the water, we need to go beyond what our shutter speed can achieve and use the flash duration instead.

Simply put, it’s the time it takes for the flash to burst – and, with the right lights and settings, we can do it as fast as 1 / 10,000s or more. As long as no other light influences our exposure, the flash duration becomes our shutter speed, allowing us to freeze the splash with crystal clarity.

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(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

However, this last part on “the other light” is problematic. This means we have to shoot in near darkness – otherwise the ambient light would illuminate our scene at times outside of the flash duration and cause motion blur on the fast moving water.

Timing is another challenge. We need our flashes to go off at the exact moment the water balloon bursts – and this isn’t the kind of shoot where we can just press and hope.

Instead, we’ll be using a sound trigger to trigger our flashes. So there is a lot to think about – the timing of the shot, the lighting, the pose, the practicalities of shooting in the dark… it’s a slippery challenge in more ways than one. , but that’s part of the fun of a project like this!

Sound and vision

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

Many sound-activated triggers, like the hähnel Captur Pro sound trigger, not only allow us to control the device’s sensitivity to sound (so that it can trigger when detecting low noise or heavier sound), but can also add a delay. So we can set it to fire a few hundredths of a second after the sound, or whichever moment best captures the splash.

we attached Hähnel Captur Pro receivers at our two speed lights. These synchronize wirelessly with the sound trigger; once the sound shutter is activated, we can open the shutter of the camera and drop the ball. Since we are in the dark, when the picture is taken, only the flash is registered.

Made a splash

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

01 Fill the balloons

Our balloons are a mix of the normal bomb-like variety and the longer type used to create animal shapes for kids – not strictly intended for water, but very good. We used hot water and a wading pool under the subject to catch the splash.

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

02 Adjust manual exposure

Set your camera to manual mode and use a shutter speed long enough to give you time to let go of the ball – 2-3 seconds should be enough, as our camera is at 2 seconds, f / 5.6, ISO100. The long shutter speed means the photo should be taken in complete darkness.

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

03 Control the lighting

Two speed lights are used to illuminate our subject. The first is placed to the left of the camera and tilted to illuminate the subject’s face, while the second flash is placed behind and used to illuminate the backdrop. .

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

04 Use lower power

On typical speed light, the flash duration is approximately 1/400 s at 1/1 full power, but speeds up to 1 / 20,000 s at lower power. So low wattage is better for the freezing action, but it means you may need to open the aperture or increase the ISO to compensate.

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

05 Diffuse the light

The gear light tilted to the subject’s face is equipped with an umbrella. This softens and diffuses the light, which is more flattering on the faces. A white reflector placed in front of the flash to the right of the camera reflects side light into the shadows of the subject’s face.

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

06 Freeze the backdrop

The flash directed towards the background has been fitted with a colored gel, which spreads over our white background roll and makes it blue. When you freeze a backdrop like this, experience the power and distance of the flash as it will impact the glow and brightness.

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

07 Capture the splash

Turn off any ambient light, use a headlamp to get into position, turn off the torch, start sound triggering, press the trigger, then you have two seconds to drop the ball over your head (or, if you use a modeling balloon, to explode it carefully with a pin on a stick)!

Read more:

The best flash triggers: wireless control for off-camera flashes
The best flash: the best strobe units for Canon, Nikon and more cameras
Home photography ideas for you to shoot in your forties


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