Home Photography Ideas: Flash and Splatter with Water Balloon Portraits

Watch Video: Home Photography Ideas – Water Balloon Portraits

A water balloon can be a wonderful prop for action portraits. Inspired by the portraits of photographer Tim Tadder, the exploding balloons almost look like wigs or water caps when frozen mid-explosion.

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

Simply put, it’s the duration of the flash burst – and with the right lights and settings we can make it as fast as 1/10000s or more. As long as there is no other light influencing our exposure, the flash duration effectively becomes our shutter speed, allowing us to freeze splashes with crystal clarity.

• ten best online photography courses

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

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

Timing is another challenge. We need our flashes to fire 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 use a sound trigger to trigger our flashes. So there’s 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 how sensitive the device is to sound (so it can trigger on detecting a quiet noise or a louder sound), but can also add delay. So we can set it to fire a few hundredths of a second after the sound, or whatever moment best captures the splash.

We attached Hähnel Captur Pro receivers at our two speed lights. These sync wirelessly with the sound trigger; once the sound trigger is activated, we can open the camera shutter and drop the balloon. As we are in the dark, at the time of the shot, only the flash registers.

Make a splash

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

01 Fill the balloons

Our balloons are a mix of the normal bomb-shaped variety and the longer type used to create animal shapes for children – not strictly speaking intended for water, but fine. We used hot water and a paddling pool under the subject to catch the splashes.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

02 Set manual exposure

Set your camera to manual mode and use a shutter speed long enough to give you time to drop 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 total darkness.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

03 Control lighting

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

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

04 Use lower power

On a typical speed light, flash duration is about 1/400s at full 1/1 power, but speeds up to 1/20,000s at lowest power. So low power is better for freezing the action, but that means you may have to open up the aperture or increase the ISO to compensate.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

05 Spread the light

The speed light angled towards the subject’s face is equipped with an umbrella. This softens and diffuses the light, which is more flattering on faces. A white reflector positioned opposite the flash to the right of the camera bounces light from the side into the shadows of the subject’s face.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

06 Freeze backdrop

The background flash has been fitted with a colored gel, which spreads over our white background roll and turns it blue. When gelling a background like this, experiment with flash power and distance, as this will impact vibrancy and brightness.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

07 Capture the splashes

Turn off any ambient light, use a headlamp to get into position, turn off the torch, start the sound trigger, press the shutter button, then you have two seconds to knock the ball off the top (or, if you use a modeling balloon, carefully pop it with a pin on a stick)!

Read more:

The best flash triggers: wireless control for off-camera flashes
The Best Flash: Best Strobe Units for Canon, Nikon Cameras and More
Home photography ideas to keep shooting during quarantine

Comments are closed.