Master Panning Photography
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February 15, 2019

Ever admired the images where the subject is still and everything around it seems to be in motion. Wondered what technique could have been used to capture that image. Well, let me introduce you to a very creative aspect of photography called Panning.

Panning basically means following the movement of a subject so that your subject stands out sharp and the background becomes blur which would give the shot a feeling of motion and speed. And how do you do this? Conceptually planning is easy: set your shutter to freeze motion, move your camera in the direction the subject is traveling and click the shutter. But how you handle this will determine the quality of your images.

Let me take you through a few tips on how to take the panning shots.

  1. Take control of the settings: Set your camera to manual mode to take control of all the settings when shooting panning. The lighting conditions may change or you may want to experiment with something different which is possible only in manual mode.                                                                                   
  2. Choose your shutter speed: This is the most important element for shooting panning. So choose the shutter speed wisely. Remember, we need to capture motion. Hence, pick a slower shutter speed. You may start with 1/30 and then change it slightly depending on the light conditions. It also depends on the distance and speed of the subject. The slower the shutter speed, the greater is the feel of motion in the shot.                                                                                                           
  3. Shooting mode: Use autofocus and continuous shooting mode. It's AI Servo for Canon users and AF-C mode for Nikon users. Autofocus will help you to lock the subject while you are tracking it when the shutter is half-pressed and continuous shooting mode will help you capture multiple pan images as opposed to single shot mode.
  4. Position yourself correctly: Make sure that there is some distance between you and the subject in motion. If you stand too close to the subject, the frame might get filled with the subject and the motion blurring in the background could be missed. Also, make sure that the subject is not blocked by any other object while it is moving. Have a free movement of your upper body as you will have to follow the subject’s movement. A steady posture will prevent any camera shakes and result in good shots. Use a tripod if necessary.                                                                                                                                                                                           
  5. Let the fun begin: Once you are ready, pick your subject up in the viewfinder. Half-press the shutter button so that the camera starts focusing on the subject. Start following the subject and when it arrives in the position you want to take the picture, fully press the shutter button and keep moving the camera smoothly. Stop moving the camera a second or two after taking the picture.                                                                                                                                                                   
  6. Results: Now that you have taken your first panning shot, check your result. If the subject is not too sharp, increase the shutter speed a little or if the background is not very blurry, decrease the shutter speed.                                                                                                                                                      


Whilst Panning is a great skill to have, it requires good camera control and a lot of practice to master it. Perfect panning subjects include moving traffic, action sports, kids and pets running and anything that is moving in a continuous direction.

It may seem difficult at first but with practice, you should be able to get the hang of it.

Let us know if this tutorial helped you with your Panning Shots. We would love to hear your experience or see your pictures on panning.

Do write to us on ** Image courtesy Pexels & Cover image by Deepa Jathar

Blog courtesy Deepa Jathar

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