Water Balloons Popping

Felt like experimenting a little today, and started out shooting low depth of field photographs of flying insects. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was taking photographs of water balloons popping (Don’t ask me how). Here’s what I used:

  • String – To hang the water balloon from
  • Binder clip – To fasten the water balloon to the string
  • Canon 40D – You just need a camera where you can control shutter speed. 6.5 frames per second doesn’t hurt either.
  • Tripod – To free up my hands
  • Remote shutter release – So I could stand away from the camera
  • Water balloons


A flash may or may not be necessary depending on your lighting conditions. Since I was outdoors during the day (didn’t want to pop water balloons indoors), I ended up not needing the flash that I brought along.

Now, I also needed something to pop the balloons with. Using a knife or a needle might work, but I chose to use a pneumatic air rifle so I could pop the balloons from behind my camera.


I shot in manual mode, since I didn’t want exposure to vary from picture to picture.


I set aperture to somewhere between f/4.5 and f/5.6 for enough depth of field to keep much of the water sphere sharp, while blurring the background enough to have it not be distracting. For shutter speed, I tried to stay above 1/2000 of a second to freeze the water, though I sometimes had to drop down to around 1/1000 to expose correctly when clouds passed overhead. This produced a little more motion blur, as you’ll see in a bit. To properly expose at these settings without using the flash, I had to push my ISO up to 800 or 1600. I also set my lens to manual focus and my drive mode to high-speed continuous shooting (6.5 fps).


Now after adjusting everything properly (i.e. making sure exposure and focus were correct), I picked up the remote with my left hand, and the air gun with my right. As I continuously snapped photos at 6.5 shots per second with my left hand, I aimed at the balloon and pulled the trigger with my right.


Aside from this basic technique, everything else was left to chance. At least one or two frames from each attempt was decent, and using a binder clip saved me time by allowing me to just clip the balloon up each time rather than tie it.

Here are some of the photos I ended up with:




There you have it. Photographs of water balloons popping. As a side note, you can also do some other pretty interesting stuff with the same setup (though this photo would have been a lot neater if it was a little boy or girl blowing):