Last Updated on January 13, 2019
Action shots are great. They freeze a particular moment, be it a couple dancing at their wedding, a football player heading the ball into the net, or a biker finishing a race. But that’s just it: it freezes a moment.
What if you want to depict motion? How can you capture in a still the twirl of a dancer or the quickness of an athlete? That’s the function of panning in photography: it allows you to portray motion in a still image.
With panning, your subject remains clear while the rest are blurred. For instance, a car passing a tree-lined street will remain in focus while the rest of the photo will be blurred.
How is panning different from a photo taken with a slow shutter speed?
They are similar in that they both show motion. They also both require the use of a slow shutter speed. What sets them apart is the movement involved with panning.
With panning, you have to follow your subject and match their speed. Whereas depicting the silky smooth flow of a river requires as much stillness as possible; the use of a tripod being of a great help (you can also use a tripod with panning shots, particularly the one with a swiveling head so you can follow your subject).
Where can panning be used?
That depends on you and how creative you want your photograph to be. Then again, panning seems to work best with a subject whose movements you can predict. Keep in mind that you actually have to track your subject when applying panning to a shot.
How to achieve panning?
It’s best to get this out right now: You will need a lot of patience to capture an acceptable shot. Sometimes, you might get lucky and achieve it on your first try. Whichever the case, know that practicing is what makes you better at it.
That said, here are a few panning photography tips:
- Use a slow shutter speed. Start with 1/60 for a rather fast subject. You can start with a 1/30 shutter speed for a slow-moving subject like a person walking or someone cycling. While these can serve as benchmarks, the actual value you use depends on just how fast your subject is going. See? You really do need a lot of patience.
- Find a location with little to no obstructions. You want to get a clear shot of your subject. So make sure to park yourself in a location where no one else will bother your shot.
- Think about distance. Your subject will appear to be moving rather slow when they are far away. On the other hand, the speed visual is heightened when the subject is really close. So take a pick or practice shooting from near and far.
- Take advantage of camera technologies. Nikkor lenses have a Vibration Reduction feature that can be of great help when panning. A camera with automatic focus tracking can also help you out.
While these tips can help you out, keep in mind that it’s only through practice – and a whole lot of patience – that you become really good at panning.