Use Panning Technique To Shoot Fast Moving Subjects

Panning is the photography technique which is primarily used to show the motion of the fast moving subject. The basic idea behind the panning is to follow the moving subject with the camera as it crosses your field of view, resulting in the subject being sharp and the rest of the shot including the background image blurred. Relatively sharp subject and the blurry background gives the feeling of the movement and the speed. It’s particularly useful in capturing any fast moving subject like racing cars, running animals, cyclist etc. If you want to master the panning technique, first and most importantly, you have to follow few simple rules and then practice with a lot of patience. Do not get frustrated with some blurry subjects initially. Panning is a skill which can be learned over time but you need to experiment with many variables including your camera settings, your distance with the subject, shutter release timing etc., which we will discuss later. In order to get the good result with panning, the ideal flow would be - maintain a balanced distance with the subject, use a little slower shutter speed, follow the moving subject and pan your camera along with the subject on the same plane of the motion, take the shot and continue to pan in the same direction.

Here are few guidelines you can follow to properly apply panning technique.

1. Use the Shutter Priority Mode.

2. Start from a slower shutter speed (1/15s - 1/30s) and go up or down little bit as you need depending on the speed of the subject and the lighting conditions.

3. Shoot in a Continuous Autofocus Mode because your subject and the camera are constantly moving in proportion to each other. This way camera continuously track and focus the moving subject.

4. If your camera doesn't support autofocus, you have to judge the traveling path of the subject, determine the subject's final point for the shooting and pre-focus on that point and then take the shot.

5. Use a Continuous Shooting Mode or a Burst Mode so that you can have a multiple shots and will have the flexibility to choose the best among many shots.

6. Position yourself parallel in front of the moving subject. If you keep larger distance from the subject, it might decrease the speed of the subject in relation with you and your camera, but it also reduces the effect of panning, and the effect is often why we do the panning. So, you have to balance the distance with the subject and the speed of the panning.

7. Place your subject position fixed in your viewfinder and smoothly move your camera as the subject moves on it's track.

8. Continuously follow the track of the moving subject, take the shot and keep moving the camera as if you are taking a shot. This will create a soft transition and gives better result.

9. If you need an extra support for heavy camera and big lens, you can use a tripod which supports panning feature. It gives extra stability to minimize the motion blur on the main subject.

Panning Technique (Image Credit :  AdoramaTV)

Panning Technique (Image Credit : AdoramaTV)

Exposure : 1/30 sec     Aperture : f/14.0     Focal Length : 200mm     ISO : 100

If you are new to this technique, do not expect to get a perfect shot in the beginning. You have to keep experimenting with different settings until you get the best result. Also using this technique, you might not get a super sharp result but panning allows you to shoot the moving subject smoothly and at the same time gives you the feeling of the motion. If you do it right, you will get the subject relatively sharper than the motion blur background, which is the main idea of this technique to give a sense of the moving subject. Here is something I tried during my recent visit to New York City.


Exposure : 1/15 sec     Aperture : f/22     Focal Length : 16mm     ISO : 200

It's not as perfect as I would like it to be but I will try next time and keep practicing until I get the better result.