6 Tips to Master Panning Photography

panning photography

You must have heard it many times that to show the moment visually, one must use a high shutter speed. It is absolutely fine to shoot at a fast shutter speed but you can also capture the moment of a subject by using a slow shutter speed. The technique of capturing the moving subject at slow shutter speed is known as panning photography.

While shooting panning photography, you can achieve blurred background which gives the feeling that the subject was in motion at the time the image was clicked. It is fun to click subjects such as fast moving cars, bikes and animals by panning your camera (moving left to right or vice-a-versa) along the subject.

If this would be your first time with panning photography, don’t be frustrated if you fail to achieve perfect results at the start. It looks easy, but requires a lot of patience and practice. To help you achieve sharp panning photos, I am sharing some tips below.

panning photography

1. Set your camera on manual mode

The first thing you need to do with your camera while setting up for panning photography is to set the camera dial mode to manual mode. Take control of all the exposure setting in your hands to master the panning technique. While shooting moving subjects, the lighting conditions might change or you might want to experiment something different which is only possible in manual mode.

2. Choose a slow shutter speed

The most important element of panning photography is the shutter speed. To capture the sense of movement in a photo, you must allow the shutter to open for adequate time. Ideal shutter speed for panning photography is anything between 1/30 second and 1/60 second as it allows your camera to register the movement of the subject as the camera moves along with the subject.

3. Prepare for correct focusing

Locking the focus point on the subject is really important as it moves swiftly across your frame. There are two ways to prepare your camera to accurately focus on the moving subject and freeze it as the background is captured as blurred.

  1. Manual focus: If you are sure that your subject will pass from a specific spot, simply lock your focus manually on that point few minutes before the subject passes by. This will help you click photos at a faster rate as your lens will not hunt for focus when the subject enters your frame. All need to do is pan your camera along with the subject and click the shutter release button. To get precise results, use the back button focus technique.
  2. Automatic focus: There might be a situation when you are not sure about the position of the moving subject, so you should be using automatic focusing. While shooting on auto focusing mode, make sure to switch-on the continuous focus tracking mode as this will help locking the focus point on the subject even when it moves along your frame.

panning photography

4. Use a tripod

As you would be clicking photos on slow shutter speed, you will have to mount your camera on a tripod or a monopod to maximize the sharpness. While clicking photos handheld at 1/30 second it is nearly impossible to get sharp images as you would also be moving your body while panning your camera.

5. Position yourself right

Make sure to allow some space between the camera and the subject in motion so that you get enough room to easily lock the focus on the moving subject. If you are too close to the subject, your frame will be filled with the subject itself, lacking the motion blur effect in the background.

Position yourself such that there is some contrast in the background where you will capture the subject. Using a flat or one-colored background will kill the motion blur effect giving a normal photo. Try and include two or more colors in the background to make the image appealing.

6. Move along with the subject

The basic idea of panning photography is to capture the photo while panning your camera along the moving subject. The speed your the camera panning should match the speed at which the subject is passing by.

Also note that you should ideally hit the shutter release button when the subject is parallel to your camera, to get maximum sharpness and better blur moment in the background.

panning photography

What about the ISO and aperture settings?

As you would be using a slow shutter speed, simply set the ISO sensitivity to 100. When you have set the shutter speed and ISO sensitivity on your camera, dedicate the aperture value as per what your camera metering is showing.

Hope these tips help you capture some awe-inspiring panning photos. Do share your feedback/questions in the comments below.

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About Author

Kunal Malhotra
Kunal Malhotra, a photography enthusiast whose passion for photography started 6 years back during his college days. Kunal is also a photography blogger, based out of Delhi. He loves sharing his knowledge about photography with fellow aspiring photographers by writing regular posts on his blog: The Photography Blogger. Some of his favourite genres of photography are Product, Street, Fitness and Architecture.