Tutorial 1: Panning

skate sk8 skating tailslide trick slide motion blur panning

Sk8 Tailslide

I got asked a question about the technique of `panning` the other day via my Flickr page so I thought I`d post a tutorial here on the subject.

Panning is the effect you get when you move the camera with your subject, similar to following a car with your eyes or shaking your head from side to side. The idea of the effect is to give a sense of movement. It is a simple technique to learn it just requires a bit of practice to master.

side slide snowboard snow snowing blur motion panning mountain


First it`s important to set up your camera. Start with the camera`s ISO or film speed setting. As we`re capturing movement we need to set this quite fast, I`d recommend 800ISO to start with, we can adjust this again if needs be after a few shots. Next set your camera to shutter speed mode (S on a Nikon & Tv on a Canon) This will allow you to play with the shutter speed and let the camera work out the aperture needed. Start by setting the speed to 1/80 or 80th of a second. This will allow the shutter to capture the motion as you pan with your subject.

car speed japfest drifting motor sport racing racecar drift fast motion blur panning

Japfest 2013

Now we are ready to shoot all we need is a willing subject. To practice use a friend or family member willing to run for you, or traffic on a busy road if not. With your subject moving, follow its motion through the viewfinder, trying to keep the subject central in the frame whilst panning with it. Practice this a few times before you start taking photos. Once you have a feel for it you`re ready to go. Now do the same but half way through the pan gently squeeze the shutter and take your photo. REMEMBER to keep panning after the shot has been taken, don`t click then stop or you won`t get the desired result. Now check the results.

cycle safety blurred motion bike biking cycling panning

Cycle Safety

Now its just a matter of playing about with the shutter speed to get the best results. Adjust this from shot to shot, either faster or slower, until you get the desired effect. You can then move on to trying it in full manual mode and set your own aperture as well, giving you full control of exposure. There is no right or wrong so just play about with the technique and practice. If your camera has a rapid fire mode try using this to capture a squence of motion blurred shots, or just cherry pick the best from the bunch.

Roller Derby

Roller Derby

Now get out there and get snapping. The technique is great for action shots of all kinds and is a simple way to get creative with your camera.