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Category: What's Wrong With My Photographic Technique? : Problems with Images

Photography Question 
Bill West

How to Photograph Balloons with Studio Flash

I need some guidance on photographing balloons. In short, I will be shooting a subject against a black background. She will have balloons next to her. I have three strobes at my disposal.
While prepping for the shoot this evening, I took some practice shots using balloons similar to those we'll be using on the day of the shoot. I tried a single light with a beauty dish first - the highlights on the balloons were super hot - way too much. I tried a 46-inch octagonal softbox - still, the highlights are large and blown.
Before I continue with trial-and-error shooting, I thought I should ask the experts here! :-) Any advice? I want to minimize the highlights on the balloons as much as possible.
Thank you,

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8/8/2012 9:29:44 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Bill,
Balloons are difficult to shoot, as is any shiny spherical object. The key is to use a very large light source, like you were using a tent around a small piece of jewelry. I would bounce a light off of a large piece of white seamless paper, say 9X9 feet. This will give you a large highlight without a hot spot. Because the light source is large, the highlight will be much closer in value to the rest of the balloon. However you do the job, a large light modifier close to the balloons will work much better than a smaller light or a light at a greater distance.

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8/10/2012 1:46:30 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Did you experiment with different angles also? You're always going to get a bright highlight, but if your light angle moves the highlight to the side, you might be more satisfied with that than if the highlight is towards the middle.

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8/10/2012 3:05:28 PM

Bill West   Thanks everyone for your help.

With respect to angle - yes, I noticed I can hide some of the highlights by moving around the balloons. So I'm trying now to imagine how to set the lights and camera angle in such a way that hides the highlights as much as possible while also avoiding unintended spillover of the balloon lights onto the model, as well as getting the correct angle on the model and achieving the mood I want to create! :-)

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8/10/2012 3:14:58 PM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2003

If I were shooting the session you describe, I would try layering two different shots in Photoshop. Shoot your subject with lighting set up for the best portrait lighting -- disregard the balloon highlights. Then do an ambient light photo using a large reflective surface to light the balloons -- you could do this shot without the subject even in the image, beforehand.

In Photoshop simply adjust the ambient exposure so that the background matches the flash lit exposure, and combine them doing a 'copy and paste', or layer and erase technique.

Assuming the balloons are relatively stationary, it should be an easy image to produce.

God Bless,

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8/15/2012 6:49:22 AM

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