Panning: the Art of Motion in Photography




Introduction: Panning: the Art of Motion in Photography

This is a step by step tutorial that teaches how to take panning shots with an SLR camera. Panning describes the action of following a moving subject with a camera to create motion. The end result is a picture with a blurred background and a crisp subject.

What you will need
1. SLR Camera (or any camera with a manual mode)
2. Monopod (can be omitted if you have a steady hand)
3. moving subject

Step 1: Setting Your Camera to Manual Mode

No matter what kind of SLR camera you have, having the proper settings is key to being able to take panning shots.

First, make sure that your camera is in manual mode.
On most cameras, this is the M on the mode selection dial.

Along with manual mode, you will also want to change your focus setting to continuous mode.
This allows your camera to continuously focus on and track a moving object as long as you have the shutter release button halfway depressed.

Step 2: Adjusting the Shutter Speed

Because the main goal in a panning shot is to induce motion blur, set your shutter speed to a lower speed than you would typically use. Your shutter speed will depend on your subject and the speed at which it is moving.

To start out, set your shutter speed at 1/30th of a second.

Step 3: Preparing for the Shot

With your camera correctly set up, you are ready to prepare the rest of the equipment.

Connect the camera to the monopod and place the strap either around your neck or wrap it around your palm.

Because you will be moving around a bit during this practice, you will want to make sure that your camera is secure.

Step 4: Practice the Motion

The key to getting a good panning shot is smooth motion.

To achieve this;
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart placing your dominant foot forward.
Bend your knees slightly and rotate to the side on the heels of your feet.
Practice this rotating motion several times while looking through the eyepiece on your camera.
Focus on not making jerking movements.

If you do this correctly , it will allow you to rotate smoothly as you follow your subject.

Step 5: Practice Following a Subject

Now that you have the motion down, it is time to practice following your subject.

For this practice, don’t take any pictures.
The goal of this portion is to focus on keeping the moving subject in the same portion of the camera frame as it moves by you.

Follow the subject with the camera from one side to the other with one fluid motion.
Remember, smooth movements. If you can repeatedly follow the subject while keeping it stationary in your camera frame, then you are ready to start taking pictures.

Step 6: Practice Shots

As mentioned in step 2, the shutter speed that will be most effective for your shot will vary depending on your subject. This step will help you to figure out what shutter speed is best for your situation. You already set your camera to 1/30th of a second, so lets start with that.

First, point your camera in the direction that you will be shooting and adjust your aperture until your light meter is centered.
Now that your exposure is set, you are ready to take a picture.

Do the exact same thing as you did in the last step, except this time gently press the shutter release button when the subject is in the position that you want.
You will want to be moving already by the time you press the button and you will continue with the smooth motion, following the subject even after the picture is taken. This motion is similar to the followthrough seen in golfers swings.

Using this technique, take several shots.

Step 7: Fine Tuning

Now that you are taking panning pictures, it is time to fine tune your results.

Examine your pictures and decide if they are turning out like you had planned. If not, you may need to adjust your shutter speed.
If the whole picture is blurry and you can’t seem to keep the subject from blurring, try speeding up your shutter speed to 1/60th of a second or higher. If you aren’t getting enough blur, try slowing down the shutter speed to something like 1/15th. Either way, keep practicing and perfecting your technique while at the same time playing with your camera settings. If you do everything correctly, you will have no trouble taking panning pictures that you will want to show off.

Note: 1st photo 1/125
           2nd photo 1/80
           3rd photo 1/60

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    5 years ago

    can I stick a camera in my butthole?


    Reply 5 years ago



    6 years ago on Introduction

    can we do it in auto mode?? if not than is it only shutter speed which is to be changed?


    Reply 6 years ago

    you can do it in Tv mode i.e. time value or shutter priority mode


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I haven't read your anything but this first page so forgive me if you have already mentioned this.

    If you have a point and shoot that doesn't have a manual mode you can normally force your camera to shoot a lower ISO and something that is aperture dominant or that shoots at a slower shutter speed.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    You are correct. If you have any way to be able to make your camera use slower shutter speeds, you can take panning pictures. Thanks for looking.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I learned something. I am spoiled dumbed down by the auto settings on my digital camera.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Everybody has to start somewhere. If you are intimidated to jump all the way to manual mode, you could try setting your camera to shutter speed priority mode first (in the picture of the mode dial, this is the Tv setting). This is sort of a half manual mode. You pick the shutter speed and the camera chooses the aperture for you. Luckily, digital pictures are cheap to take and easy to erase. Just mess around with it until you start to get the hang of it. If I can do it, anyone can.