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Panning photography is something which I’ve spoken about when discussing shutter speed, but never really went into any great detail. It’s an excellent way of capturing moving objects, without the whole photo becoming a blur, by moving your camera at the same pace as your subject.

How it’s Done

Shutter Speed

The first thing you will want to do, is adjust your shutter speed to capture the movement of a subject, without freezing them. I usually find that anywhere between 1/15 of a second, and 1/200 of a second can work, it all depend on what you’re capturing, and how they’re moving.

Be careful not to go too slow though, or you’ll ruin the effect altogether.

Focus

The next step requires careful focus, because there’s a strong chance that the subject is moving slightly closer or further from you. I would suggest using AI SERVO / AF-C focus mode, because it will track the subject with the focus, and predict where they’re going to be in the time it takes for the shutter to go up.

You will typically use this mode when you’re taking multiple images of a moving subject, but it works in the same way here.

Tracking

Hold your camera correctly, and track the moment of your subject. You need a smooth, fluid motion for this photo to work. If you’re moving too fast, or too slow, then the whole photo is going to come out as a blur.

The reason panning works is because your camera is moving at the same pace as the subject, so they’re effectively still in the frame, while everything else around them is moving. This really isn’t as hard as it sounds, a lot of it comes down to your choice in shutter speed.

Speed

Like I said, the success of your photo is likely going to come down to your speed of your exposure. When your subject is nice and close to you, then if they move a foot in front of you, that’s going to take them much further across the frame than if they were 100 feet away. This means that you need a faster shutter speed for subjects that are closer to you.

Generally speaking that it.

You see, objects that are further away are often further because we can’t get as close, usually because they’re moving so fast, or they’re very large. Think of planes, trains, and automobiles. This photo below was taken at 1/160 of a second, because I was also in  a moving vehicle, moving at roughly the same pace.

Flash

There’s no reason why you’ve can’t add a flash to your photo, and start implementing some of the slow sync flash techniques that I go into detail about here.

You set off the flash at the beginning of the exposure to freeze the motion, and then you carry on as you would with any other panning photo.

Using a flash can really help if you’ve only just started learning this technique, because you can adjust your shutter speed using bulb mode. If you put your camera into manual, go all the way past 30 seconds, you will reach bulb mode. This means that for as long as you hold down the shutter, the exposure will continue. You simply set the exposure for the flash, and you can vary the length of shutter speed, depending on how fast your subject is moving.

Troubleshooting

If you’re having trouble getting this to work, then chances are that you’re either not using the right shutter speed, or you’re messing up the focus.

Shutter speed is key, because the longer you set it to, the higher the probability of everything going wrong. I suggest faster speeds if you’re struggling.

Focus is a big issue, especially when you’re trying to track a subject’s movement before they get close to you to take a photo. If you do have a problem, then I would suggest switching to manual focus with a narrow aperture, and waiting for your subject to come into a certain point before taking the photo.

That’s it!

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How to Use Panning to Capture Moving Objects

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Josh

Hey I'm Josh, I'm Photographer in Chief here at ExpertPhotography, and I'm in charge of making sure that we provide you with the best content from the most knowledgeable photographers in the world. Enjoy the site :)