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Summer photography fun with kids: Water balloons

Have you ever considered water balloons as a type of child-friendly extreme sport? When you bring some photographic elements into it, it can be. This one is perhaps not for the littles, but for older kids with a bit of adult supervision. It provides for some awesome fun (for the adults as well). But beware, it does get a bit messy and you will end up getting wet! So pick a day that is nice and warm and not too windy.

Requirements

  • Different colored balloons
  • String to tie the balloons up
  • Darts — having two or three is handy
  • A water source (backyard tap)
  • Food dye (optional extra) and eye dropper
  • Something to hang balloons on like a backdrop stand or low tree branch
  • Camera or smartphone that can do either burst mode or slow motion

The setup

Find a large area with a fairly non-distracting background and set up a backdrop stand or use a low tree branch, this is what you will hang your balloons on. We frequently use a local park. Try for some shade, as too much bright light in the wrong direction can make it difficult to shoot.

Using the string, tie the balloons to your hanging option, be careful to hold the balloon from the bottom, as you tie it, to prevent it from breaking too early. An optional extra to make the photos more interesting is to add a few drops of food dye to the balloons when you fill with water (an eye dropper is great for this). Another tip — we took a wheelbarrow and used it to carry the filled balloons, we had 20-30 filled up at a time. That way you can keep shooting and don’t have to stop to keep filling balloons.

Once you have everything set up for the balloons, it’s time for the camera and settings, you want a fast shutter speed to capture the action, I suggest between 1/800 to 1/1250s (unless you are filming slow-motion) as a good range. I used an ISO 320 to get my shutter speed up to high enough speeds. F-stop, well I would suggest f/4.5 – f/6.3. The balloons can move quite a bit so a good midrange F/stop is preferred over a high one, and the lower range could slow your shutter speed up. You could use a tripod, but I actually found it a bit of a nuisance, as the balloons often moved once hit and I lost them out of frame.

The shot

If there are a few people, take turns in throwing the dart at the balloons — it can take a few tries to get this right. To catch all the action I started shooting when the dart was thrown and kept shooting until after the balloons burst. I recommend using a camera with a fast burst rate (if possible) and use an SD card with a higher transfer rate (mine was 90MB/s), and make sure your card is empty BEFORE you start, as this will fill it quickly. Yes, there will be A LOT of photos to delete to find the gold! Try shooting with just one balloon to start with and then move to two or three at once.

Another option is to stand directly next to the balloon, hold the balloon in one hand and then pop it with the dart — you WILL get very wet, but it’s loads of fun. If you are feeling brave, try squeezing with your hands (you will get even wetter).

Don’t forget to pick up all the balloons pieces once you have finished, leaving the area as clean as you found it, if not quite a bit wetter. Oh and don’t forget the sunscreen while you are out in the sun, it is easy to forget.

Check out my other tips on how to get your kids involved with photography this summer!

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