5 Steps to Mastering Panning

11/04/2018 9:20 pm

5 Steps to Mastering Panning

If you are at all interested in photographing fast-moving subjects, you probably long to become a master of panning. Although panning can be a little tricky to get the hang of, it is not impossible and with a little patience and plenty of practice, you will get there soon. To help you get your head around this useful technique, we have compiled this list of key steps.

Mastering Panning

1: Choose your subject carefully

Not every moving object is the ideal candidate for utilising panning. Ideally, you need a subject that is moving along a consistently straight path, so you can predict where it is heading and at what speed. Subjects to avoid are those that are moving erratically or intermittently. These subjects will only lead to blurry pictures.

2: Check your shutter speed

You are probably used to choosing a relatively fast shutter speed to avoid camera shake at all costs, but this is not the case when using a panning technique. As a benchmark, we recommend starting with a shutter speed of 1/30 second, reducing from there to find the best speed for the individual shot. We find most subjects sit within the 1/60 to 1/8 second range, with faster subjects like a racecar or jet often needing a speed of 1/125 second or faster. Although you are experimenting with slower speeds intentionally, it is still important to be mindful of camera shake, as too much blur can spoil a shot.


Mastering Panning

3: Position yourself away from any obstruction

It is easy to forget about objects that are not within your starting frame but you will need to be mindful of things that can obstruct your view or be a distraction in your backgrounds before you start shooting, or they could disturb your final image.

When setting up for your shot, position yourself in line with the path of your subject, carefully selecting an area with a single or plain coloured background. If you don’t think ahead at this early stage you could end up with a busy or distracting background, with streaks and colours which take the attention off your subject.


4: Track the subject

Tracking your subject is essential to your success when it comes to panning. A monopod or tripod can help you keep steady and keep your subject within your sites. Focus is obviously extremely important, with AF tracking making things a lot easier for you if it is available on your camera. If not, pre-focusing your camera well in advance of your subject’s arrival is a great idea. You should focus on the spot that you will be eventually firing the shutter.


Mastering Panning

5: Release the shutter smoothly

Gently releasing the shutter of your camera can go a long way towards avoiding camera shake. Panning should be smooth and continuous, with you following your subject after you have taken your shot. If you experience some shutter lag with your camera, take this into consideration, panning well after you have fired the shutter.

Mastering Panning

Bonus tips!

By its very nature, panning will rarely result in a subject which is completely sharp and in focus. What you are aiming for is a subject which is sharp in comparison to the background of the image, with a little blur adding to the drama and movement within the shot. Don’t delete anything from your card on the spot due to imperfect focus, as you may find these images will stand out and be your most loved when you are viewing them later on.

As with any technique, panning requires lots of practice to master. It is even advisable to continue practicing regularly after you are satisfied with your results.

Don’t jump right into the deep end. Instead, start by shooting things which move a little slower, such as passing traffic, or people and animals running. Once you are happy with your results with these slower-paced subjects, you are ready to try your hand at capturing the high-adrenaline, fast-paced world of racing and action.


Now you've got the skills needed for panning, why not go out and give it a try?
Enter your panning images in our April "Sports" competition, and you could win a Manfrotto Befree Travel Pack – including a Befree Carbon Fibre Tripod & Befree Messenger Bag - Valued at $675


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