Capital Photography Center | Photography Classes in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

10 Tips For Perfect Panning

May 27, 2015 by Marie Joabar

Panning is a fun way to imply speed and movement and give a totally different look to an otherwise plain and ordinary scene. As your subject moves across an area, you follow it with your camera using a slow, steady, sweeping motion and fire a shot (or several) to capture them against a blurred background.

Here are 10 tips to perfect your panning:
1. For a relatively sharp subject, try 1/30th or 1/60th as a starting shutter speed. Shutter speeds of 1/15, 1/8 and slower can work too depending on how fast your subject is moving and how close you are to it. 

2. The key is to lock focus on your subject and follow it through the frame moving the camera parallel to it. Completely follow through avoiding a sudden or jerky stop once the subject has passed. 

3. Hand holding is fine for panning and can sometimes be easier to follow your subject but a tripod will give you smoother backgrounds and make it easier to capture your subject sharp (if that’s the desired look).  If using a tripod, loosen the knob or lever that allows you to pan (move horizontally) so you can smoothly travel with the subject.

4. Choose your backgrounds carefully so the subject stands out. You’ll want to show separation so watch for color, contrast, light and dark tones, and backgrounds that will look uncluttered once blurred. 

5. Bright and colorful subjects are visually more appealing than dark or neutral toned subjects. 

6. Anticipate likely candidates and their movement and be ready.

7. Use the continuous shooting drive mode and fire off several shots as your subject passes. You’ll have more success at capturing a winner as some will be better in terms of sharpness, focus, background separation, etc.

8. Capture the subject entering the frame, not leaving it.

9. Achieving focus on a moving subject can be challenging. Use Single Point as the Focus Area and put the focus point on your subject. Then use the Continuous Focus Mode (sometimes referred to as Servo) and it should follow the subject as it moves through the frame. Practice will make it easier.

10. Explore different subjects; cars, carousels, skateboarders, bicyclists, runners, ice skaters, horses, dog walkers, the list goes on…

Panning is tons of fun and like anything, the more you do it, the easier gets and the better you become at it. Be creative and above all, have fun with it.

Carousel photo courtesy of Dhiraj Patil.