Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Shoot Perfect Panning Shots

The art of panning is not something that’s easy to get right. It takes practice and skill, but can produce fantastic results when done correctly. So, what is panning? Well, essentially the basic idea is that you move your camera along in time with a moving subject (i.e. ‘pan’ the camera). This results in a sharp subject with a blurred background. It’s a great technique for conveying movement and speed and is commonly used for photographing subjects such as racing cars and animals.

So, how do you do panning successfully? Well, for starters you need to set aside a fair amount of time to practice! Then follow these instructions:

01 You need to give yourself a clear and unobstructed view of your subject. Large open spaces obviously work well, but don’t forget to take into account the background of your shot. Plainer or single colored backgrounds work well as they won’t distract from your subject matter.

02 When starting out with panning, set yourself up so that you are parallel to the path of your subject. This makes it easier to focus.

03 As your subject starts to approach track it smoothly with your camera by panning it round to follow the movement. This is a tricky thing to get right and it definitely takes practice to hold your camera steady and move in a smooth line. If you are using a longer lens or find it hard to hold your hands steady, a tripod with a swivelling head will make things far easier.

04 Once you’ve released the shutter when the subject is directly in front of you, keep panning with the subject until after the shot has been taken. This is to ensure that you have consistent and smooth motion blur from start to finish.


Most modern DSLRs have a ‘tracking’ autofocus mode, whereby you focus the camera on a subject and, as you move with the subject, the camera will keep refocusing automatically. If your camera’s autofocus is fast enough, this is a really helpful way to achieve great panning results. Alternatively, if your camera can’t keep up with the subject, you’ll need to pre-focus your camera upon a designated spot and wait for your subject to enter the frame.

Whichever method you use, it’s essential to get into the habit of manually choosing your focus point. DSLRs can have anything from 3 AF-points on really old models, up to 39 or 51 points on modern equivalents. But however many focal points your camera has, it’s important to choose your own so that you can ensure the camera is concentrating on your moving subject and not a distracting background object by mistake.


Panning requires forethought when it comes to picking a suitable shutter speed. There are a number of variations on a theme that can produce interesting results however! My favourite types of panning shots are ones that choose a fast enough shutter speed to freeze your subject, whilst still being slow enough to produce motion blur in the background. I would recommend starting out by using 1/60 sec to 1/250 sec for fast moving subjects (for example racing cars) and 1/30 sec to 1/60 sec for slightly slower subjects such as animals and bikes. Do bear in mind though that if you use a shutter speed slower than 1/60 sec you run the risk of slight blur in your subjects.

For Further Reading,
Digital Photography Tips


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