Using Panning Technique To Shoot Fast Moving Subjects

Panning is an effective technique which lets you capture action and movement in photography. The basic idea behind panning is following the subject with the camera as it crosses your field of view, resulting in the subject being sharp and the rest of the shot including background image being blurred. Relatively sharp subject and blurry background gives the feeling of movement and speed. It’s particularly useful in capturing any fast moving subject like racing cars, running animals, cyclist etc. If you want to master panning technique, first and most importantly, you have to follow few simple rules and then practice with patience. Do not get frustrated with some blurry subjects initially. Panning is a skill which can be learned over the time with lots of experiments. Take a little slower shutter speed, follow your subject moving your camera and take a shot. Here are few guidelines to follow for getting best results using panning technique.

1. Use Shutter Priority Mode.

2. Start from slow shutter speed (1/15 sec or 1/30 sec) and go up and down little bit as you need it depending up on the speed of subjects and lighting conditions.

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

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

5. Use Continuous Shooting Mode or Burst Mode. In this way you can have multiple shots and will have flexibility to choose best among many shots.

6. Position yourself parallel in front of the moving subject. Greater distance from subject does seem to decrease apparent speed, but it also reduces the effect of panning, and the effect is often why you're doing it.

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

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

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

Panning Technique

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 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 super sharp result but panning allows you to shoot the moving subject smoothly and at the same time gives you feeling of motion of the subject. If you are lucky and get a great shot, you will get your subject relatively sharper than the motion blur background which is the main idea of this technique to give sense of moving subject.

Here is something I tried during my recent visit to New York City. It's not perfect as I would like it to be but I will try next time and keep practicing until I get better shot.

Panning Technique

Panning Technique

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