Use Panning To Create Motion in Your Photos

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Panning is a great technique to help create the illusion of motion in your photos. With panning, you create motion by actually moving the camera with the subject in a panning motion. 

Panning is a technique where you move your camera along with your subject. This will result in your subject being in focus with a blurred background. Sounds pretty cool right? 

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If you’re going to try panning for the first time you should approach it with an experimental attitude. It can be a lot of fun but can also be quite frustrating. It takes a lot of practice to move your camera with your subject. If you move your camera too fast, your subject will be out of focus, move too slowly, and your subject will be out of focus.

The key is to switch your camera’s focusing mode to auto continuous focusing. This means your camera will track the subject and auto adjust to keep it in focus as it moves. It’s also known as AI Servo for Canon or AF-C for Nikon (check your camera manual).

Compose your image, half-press on the shutter release to focus on your subject. You should hear a beep or a flash on the AF point telling you your subject is now in focus.

Continue to half-press the shutter release and don’t let go. As your subject moves, pan by moving in a steady and fluid motion with your subject, keeping it in the frame. Press in full on the shutter release when the moment is right!

Choosing the Shutter Speed. Choosing the correct shutter speed to use depends on how fast your subject is moving, and how much motion blur you wish to have.  speed. You need a slow that shutter speed and his motion isn't stopped, it's evident. But how slow is "slow"? Some guidelines suggest starting at 1/30 or 1/20 second and moving up or down from there. As you've probably guessed, experimentation and experience have a lot to do with your shutter speed choices, and there's no substitute for a lot of shooting to build a memory database of what works best in various situations. 

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How do you do it?

Select a slightly slower shutter speed than you normally would. Start with say 1/30 second and then play around with slower ones. Depending upon the light and the speed of your subject you could end up using anything between 1/60 and 1/8 – although at the slower end you’ll probably end up with camera shake on top of your motion blur.

Position yourself in a place where your view of the subject will not be obstructed by anyone or anything else. Also, consider the background of your shot. While it will be blurred if there are distracting shapes or colors it could prove to be distracting. Single colored or plain backgrounds tend to work best.

As the subject approaches track it smoothly with your camera. For extra support of your camera if you’re using a longer lens or are feeling a little jittery you might like to use a monopod. 

For best results, you’ll probably find that setting yourself up so that you’re parallel to the path of your object (this will help with focusing also).

If you have a camera with automatic focus tracking you can let the camera do the focusing for you by half-pressing the shutter button.

If your camera doesn’t have fast enough autofocussing you’ll need to pre-focus your camera upon the spot that you’ll end up releasing the shutter.

Once you’ve released the shutter, continue to pan with the subject, even after you’ve heard the shot is complete. This smooth follow through will ensure the motion blur is smooth from start to finish in your shot.

Panning can be highly rewarding and fun to do. So get out and give it a try. Happy Shooting!