Keys To Panning Photography




Conveying the sense of the moment is your goal for image you capture. Motion and action can be shown by letting your subject blur.  However, you can pan the camera, following your subject, to convey that sense of motion.  Panning is a simple technique to capture speed and motion, but it takes practice to master.

An image that captured through panning is different than an image that shows the subject motion a blur. In those images, only the subject is blurred.  The surrounding elements and the background remain in focus.  But when you pan the camera with the subject, the surrounding elements and background are streaked and all or some of the subject are blurred.  Since or eyes are drawn to the area of sharpest focus panning can isolate your subject in interesting and creative ways.



Sample gallery of panned images

Click an image to open a full screen slideshow

The steps to panning

  1. Control your shutter speed. Keep your shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/4 of a second. Much faster or slower will create to little or to much blur. Use your camera’s shutter priority mode to control the shutter and let you camera control the aperture.
  2. Use a tripod.  Loosen the tripod’s had so it you can move the camera horizontally, smoothly, and steadily. If you have a steady hand, you can try hand holding your camera.
  3. Station yourself parallel to where your subject will pass. For example, if you’re going to photograph a marathon runner position yourself on the side of the course where the runner will pass by you.
  4. Set you focus at a point where your subject will pass.
  5. Frame your subject as they are coming towards you and follow your subject with through your lens. Release the shutter while keeping a steady camera motion when your subject is at the predefined point of focus and keep your camera moving through the scene with you your subject.

Panning is an excellent technique to show speed and motion with almost anything that moves (people, pets, cars, boats, planes, and trains)

Tips for panning

  • Practice, practice, practice. Cars passing on the street are an easy subject to find and practice with.
  • Experiment with different shutter speeds. Review your results with different shutter speeds.  This way you can learn how slow of a shutter speed you can use without a tripod.
  • Try different focus points. Try starting your panned exposure at different points in the frame (beginning, middle, and end)

Photo Credits

“NYC Taxi” by Damianos Chronakis
“Woman on Bike in front of Cars” by Sascha Kohlmann
“Kid On Wheels” by Vinoth Chandar
“Pond Hockey” by Jamie McCaffrey
“Skateboarding” by Liliana Saeb
“Amsterdam in motion” by FaceMePLS

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