Quick Tip: Capture Movement with Panning

Panning

Panning takes some practice to nail down. But with practice and good timing this effect will convey movement like no other technique. Panning allows us to keep the subject in focus while allowing the background to blur.

©R. Mabry Photography

©R. Mabry Photography

The basic idea behind panning is a technique where you follow your subject with a smooth motion while matching the speed of the subject.

Here is how I recommend doing it.

  • Let’s start with the camera. The range that I use for panning is somewhere between 1/60th and 1/8th second. The reason there is such a large range of shutter speeds is that the lighting, speed of the subject and environmental conditions can be very dramatically. If you are going to drop below 1/8th second I have found that a mono pod will help with camera shake.
  • Set up so that the entire path of the subject will not be obstructed by other things in the scene. Also, if possible try to keep the path of the subject parallel to you for optimum sharpness.

    ©R. Mabry Photography

    ©R. Mabry Photography

  • As the subject approaches start panning with the camera in a smooth and controlled motion.
  • Some of the newer cameras have what is called automatic tracking for focusing. Automatic tracking allows the camera to keep in focus a moving object right up to the time of exposure. If your camera has this feature now is the time to use it. If not or the camera cannot track fast enough you will have to manually set the focus at the point where you are going to press the shutter release.
  • Press the shutter released as gently as possible to reduce camera shake.  Continue to pan with the subject, even after you’ve heard the shutter release close. This follow through is where most armatures fall short. If you stop panning during the exposure you risk the change of blurring the subject along with the background. A smooth follow through will ensure the motion blur is smooth from start to finish.

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