Mastering the art of panning

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PHOTOGRAPHY is an art form that allows one to capture fleeting moments in time, preserving the essence of motion and emotion.


Among the techniques to convey movement is panning.

It stands out for its ability to create striking images where the subject remains in sharp focus against a blurred background, adding dynamism to the photos.

Panning is a technique that involves moving the camera follow a moving subject during an exposure.

The goal is to keep the subject in sharp focus while the background appears as a motion blur to highlight the subject’s speed and movement.

This technique can be used in sports, wildlife and any photography scenario where capturing motion is essential, making it stand out against chaotic surroundings.

Panning also highlights the subject’s importance in the composition.

It gives viewers a sense of the subject’s speed and direction.

It also adds dynamic quality to photographs, making them more engaging and visually attractive.

Executing a successful panning shot requires practice and understanding the technical elements involved.

Select a subject moving at a relatively constant speed along a predictable path.

Typical subjects include cyclists, runners, cars, and animals in motion.

The key to successful panning is choosing the right shutter speed.

A slower shutter speed is essential to creating the desired motion blur. Shutter speeds between 1/30 and 1/125 of a second generally work well, but this can vary depending on the subject’s speed.

Faster subjects may require faster shutter speeds


Position yourself to have a clear view of the subject’s path.

Choosing a spot where the background will create a visually interesting blur is often helpful.

Frame your shot with the subject in mind, leaving enough space in the direction of movement.

Set your camera to continuous autofocus. This setting allows the camera to track and continuously adjust focus on the subject, ensuring it remains sharp throughout the shot.

Setting the camera to continuous burst mode can increase the chances of getting a perfect panning shot.

In panning, the most crucial aspect of the shot is the smooth horizontal movement of the camera.

As the subject approaches, lock onto it with your focus and move the camera in sync with the subject’s motion.

Continue to follow the subject smoothly, pressing the shutter button halfway to lock focus and fully take the shot.

Keep the camera moving even after the shutter has closed to maintain a consistent motion.

Perfect panning requires practice and experimentation. Start with slower-moving subjects and gradually move to faster ones.

Based on the results, adjust the shutter speed and camera settings. Experiment with different angles and compositions to get different perspectives in panning.

Panning also allows you to tell a story of movement and energy through your lens.

It opens up a world of creative possibilities to explore and document the colourful and vibrant energy around us.

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