Panning to show motion.
November 16th, 2014
For the most part, photography is all about freezing a moment in time, but there are times when freezing the moment is not gonna work to tell the full story in that shot. Sometimes freezing the action fails to pay homage to the action going on on the field, or the track. There's a technique for that and it's called panning, and that is where you use a slower shutter speed and move the camera a little while following a moving subject, in other words you have to synchronize the movement of your camera with the movement of your subject and the purpose is to get a nice and crispy subject and the background blurred to show motion.
A couple things that will help for practicing this technique are to use a telephoto lens or a zoom lens and to shoot your subject that's moving right to left or left to right, if you shoot something that's moving towards you or is moving away from you, the panning is not going to work because the background is not gonna be blurry and we don't want that or even worse this won't be panning at all so make sure you are shooting a subject moving left to right or viceversa, center it in your frame and shoot away.
There are a few things to have in mind to get nice panning photos and I'm gonna walk you through and the first one is focus you are gonna be shooting a moving subject so focus is gonna be critical here so I recommend you to set your camera to continuous autofocus or AI for canon users, if you use one shot mode or single focus mode you're gonna have problems because what happen when you use these is that you lock your focus on your camera at the beginning of the panning for say so, but as your subject move you move and your point of focus changes and by the time your subject is in the spot you want to capture it is gonna be completely out of focus, now if your camera doesn't have continuous autofocus you can still get it done, just turn off auto focus and manually focus your camera in the spot where you think your subject is gonna be passing by when you hit the shutter button and that lead us to the second thing to have in mind for panning shots and that is that you need to shoot when your subject is right in front of you for a great panning shot, but I'm not saying for any meanings just do one shot at a time because if you are panning with your camera and just press the shutter button one time when the subject is right in front of you your chances for a nice shot are gonna be reduced to maybe none so this is when our next thing to have in mind while panning becomes handy and this is that you shoot in continuous drive mode, this mode allows you to get as many frames as your camera can handle without letting go of that shutter button, this will give you more chances to get the shot, so try this with continuous drive mode on start panning hit the shutter button and don't let go and follow your subject while you are still pressing the shutter button and check what you got.
The last, but not less important thing to have in mind when panning is the shutter speed and you're gonna need to shoot with a slow shutter speed to get panning shots which kinda sounds wacky because we need to shoot in faster shutter speeds to capture moving subjects to freeze the action, but here what we are trying to do is to show movement so the shutter needs to slow down this also depends on what are you shooting or how fast is your subject moving, the slower your subject moves the slower your shutter speed needs to be of course you're gonna have time to practice it and/or try a few shots before you actually get your settings right, but start with something about 15th of a second and from there just follow this rule "If everything is blurry then you need to speed up your shutter speed, if nothing is blurry you need to slow down your shutter speed" easy enough, now get in the field and start shooting!
The settings for this shot were f8, 1/30 of a second and 400 ISO.
The settings for this shot were f11, 1/50 of a second and 100 ISO.