Panning: An Impressive Photography Technique

Would you like to take photos that will be different and eye catching? Would you like to add movement to a still image? Then you need to add panning to your photographic repertoire. It’s easy, just follow these steps

1. Choose a subject that moves 

You can’t pan something that doesn’t move. To add the motion blur to your shot you have to choose anything that moves over about 20km per hour. Really fast subjects (70km/h+)and really slow subjects (20km/h-) will be more difficult. Practice  on vehicles/subjects that are moving between these speeds for easier results.

2. Choose a relatively short lens (or a multi-purpose zoom like the trusty 18-55mm kit lens) 

I used my kit lens for all of the below shots. Why? Because its versatile. Cars on the side of the road closest to you are going to require the length of your lens to be shorter. The cars on the other side of the road are going to require your lens to be longer, as you will be further away.

3. Switch your camera to ‘Shutter Priority’ shooting mode, and set your shutter speed to 1/30

4. Crank up that ISO if you have to 

Panning works best in lower light. That means, dark days, early morning, and early evening. This maximises the dynamic range in your photographs and eliminates shadows. No shooting in the middle of the day folks.


5. Autofocus momentarily on a passing car (that is situated in your desired location), or on the point where your subject will be, then flip your camera to manual focus and don’t change it!

If your camera has the focus lock function, use it! The idea of this is so that your camera is permanently in focus for when your fast moving subject passes through your frame. Your camera (unless a professional model) wont be able to auto focus quickly enough.

6. Turn your camera on to ‘burst’ or ‘continuous’ shooting mode

That’s the mode where you hold down the shutter button and your camera continually takes photos without stopping.

7. Set sight on your subject through the viewfinder before it reaches you, and follow it with your body, like a sunflower following the sun, but faster

The fluid movement of your body, at the same speed as your subject approaching you, is the key to panning. It’s the magic of panning. The more practice you get at this, the better you will be. There are no shortcuts with this technique.

8. Just before your subject reaches your desired point, press down on the shutter continuously, while still following your subject with your body 

9. Review your photos and adjust shutter speed and ISO if necessary. Critique your own photos in the field to improve your results before you get home to the computer 

10. Shoot at magic hour or on an overcast day for best lighting and exposure 

11. Get down low, or the same height as your subject for a better perspective

12. Patience!

The best photos are always the ones you have to wait for!



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