Tips And Tricks To Master Panning Photography

Using the panning technique in photography, you may add movement and drama to your photographs by freezing fast-moving subjects against dynamic backgrounds.

Tips And Tricks To Master Panning Photography

In addition, you can give slower subjects a sense of motion. Any camera may be used to add this effect to your images by using the panning technique.

Additionally, you are not required to photograph just fast-moving objects. Panning can be utilized to give relatively slow subjects a sensation of speed.

This is since the motion blur may make them seem to be moving much faster than they actually are. In this article, we have collected all the tips and tricks to help you master panning photography.

What Is Panning Photography?

While you move the camera and utilize a slower shutter speed, the photographic method known as panning creates motion blur in the background of the image.

A breathtaking shot can be made by using this technique to combine a background with motion blur and a relatively sharp subject. You’ll notice that panning frequently involves a subject that is moving horizontally, such a dog or a person jogging.

The photographer can capture the subject moving while maintaining sharpness of the subject itself, as the background blurs.

Nevertheless, not every camera movement will result in a unique panning effect, and even if you are successful in capturing an intriguing blur, your subject might not come out sharp.

You must use certain camera settings in conjunction with careful technique to get the best results.

Tips To Master Panning Photography

An excellent technique for capturing creative photographs of moving objects is panning. It also looks pretty amazing and is a great way to express motion. The following tips will help you to improve and master panning photography.

1. A Tripod Produce Better Images

Panning while holding your camera in your hands is entirely doable. In fact, it can occasionally provide fantastic results.

However, using a short shutter speed while shooting handheld will cause a little amount of camera shake, which will appear as unwanted blur in your pictures.

Additionally, as you pan your camera with the traveling subject, you run the risk of adding shake through up-and-down body movements.

Therefore, we advise you to set your camera on a monopod or tripod in order to guarantee that you take sharp panning photos.

You should be careful when selecting your tripod head because some heads are made for smooth panning. While others will move your camera in all directions.

2. Use Burst Mode

Burst mode is quite useful for panning photography since it enables you to take multiple pictures in a split second. The more photos you take, the more probable it is that you’ll get a great photograph.

Therefore, change your camera’s single-shot mode to continuous shooting before you begin panning. Consult your camera’s instructions if you’re unsure how to do this.

Then, when it’s time to take a picture, press and hold the shutter button while panning until the subject of the picture has zoomed out of sight. Several pictures will be taken by your camera.

Thus, you’ll have a ton of files to comb through, and hopefully, you will have a handful that will look amazing.

Your camera’s burst mode will increase your odds of getting a good shot while also preventing you from needlessly tapping the shutter button, minimizing camera shake.

3. Focusing Is Key

You must lock the focus fast and precisely when panning because your subject is going to be moving quickly across the frame.

It is important to remember that no matter which way you focus your camera, you should set the camera to burst mode and hold the shutter button down as your subject passes you by.

There are two techniques you can use to make the foreground appear sharp, and the backdrop appear to be moving:

  • Manual Focus – We advise manual focusing if you are certain of the area from which the subject of the photograph will pass you by. For example, if you’re certain that your subject will be traveling along a specific lane of the road. Decide where your subject will appear, then focus on that point beforehand. When your subject approaches, simply pan your camera in that direction and capture a number of pictures without being concerned about holding and maintaining focus.
  • Autofocus – Use autofocus if you are new to panning photography or if you are unsure about the subject’s proximity to the camera. Turn on the continuous focusing option on your camera to ensure that you precisely focus on your subject. This will aid in maintaining the subject’s focus as it moves across the frame of your camera. When the subject is far away, start focusing on it. As you pan along, maintain your main focus point fixed on the subject’s center mass.

4. Play With Shutter Speed

Your shutter speed has a significant impact on panning. If you set your shutter speed too high, the result will be a perfectly sharp image with no blur. If you set the shutter rate too low, your subject will be smudged and indistinct.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a shutter speed that works for everyone. Even though 1/60s is a decent starting point, quicker and slower moving objects will necessitate different shutter speeds.

A speed of 1/125s may be ideal for capturing an impressive panning view of a race car. A speed of 1/30s is preferable to achieve the same result while photographing a runner. Therefore, it’s crucial that you continually experiment.

Review the outcomes carefully after each round of shots. Reduce the shutter speed if your subject appears overly crisp. Then, increase the shutter speed if your subject appears too fuzzy.

Whenever you succeed, make a note of the shutter-subject combination. Thus, you’ll be prepared the next time you encounter a similar situation.

5. Shutter Priority Mode Is Ideal

When using the shutter priority setting, you can pick the shutter speed while the camera picks the aperture. As a result, it allows you to concentrate on the shutter speed, which is the most crucial setting.

This then leaves the other settings up to your camera’s hardware. When taking pictures in varying lighting situations, shutter priority is extremely helpful.

Shutter priority can handle the exposure while maintaining a consistent shutter speed if you’re shooting automobiles or bikers that are moving in and out of darkness.

However, if you tried using Manual mode, you would have to continuously change the aperture in order to get a nice exposure. This would likely result in you missing many photo opportunities.

6. Flash Or No Flash

Using the flash can be helpful if you’re just starting to learn how to pan your camera. When the flash fires, it will stop any movement in the shot, allowing you to continue panning as usual.

Thus, not only can it help you to achieve sharp panning images, but the brightness from the flash offers more light. This is ideal when panning in the dark or dimly lit areas.

7. Positioning Yourself In The Right Place

Make sure you maintain some spacing between the moving object and the camera to give your lens ample room to focus.

Even when utilizing the manual focus method outlined above, your lens might have trouble and fail to focus if you are too near the subject. This is because every lens has a minimum focus distance.

Thus, if anything moves in too close then the lens will always struggle to put it into focus. Additionally, a large, close subject is challenging to retain in the frame. Take a few steps backwards to give yourself enough room to get a beautiful image.

8. Select A Contrasting Background

Choose an appropriate background when determining your position as well. Avoid merely standing anywhere. Instead, walk around until you discover a background that makes your subject stand out.

When there is a strong contrast between your background and the subject, this can create an eye-catching image. It works well when there are a minimum of two or more background colors. The background then gives context and aids in setting the scene.

Having said that, you can also make stunning panning views with a consistent background (such as a field of green trees). Just stay away from packed backdrops, as there will be too much going on.

This is since you need the scenery to enhance, not detract from, the subject of the photo.

9. Be In Line With Your Subject

This tip works alongside the advice mentioned above. While you want to ensure that you position yourself a good distance away from your subject, you also want to ensure that you are in line with the subject as well.

By being at the same level as the subject of your image, it allows you to produce a clear image of the subject.

In addition to this, you are able to pick up every detail of the subject, and you can create an easier panning effect. Although you could try different angles to see the way the angle affects your shot.

10. Practice Makes Perfect

Panning photography can take a bit of practice to produce those perfect shots as you experiment with different settings. When you first start out, we suggest taking pictures of cars because they are simple to find, predictable, and move rather quickly.

This gives you lots of practice. You can eventually advance to harder subjects like athletes, animals, and birds (see also “How To Photograph Hummingbirds“). Once you are in position, and find your subject follow the movement of the subject with the lens of your camera.

You’ll be able to judge the subject’s pace more accurately the earlier you start the pan. It is better to have more images to review, so you know what settings you need to adjust.

Then once you have got the perfect settings you keep going until you think you have taken your preferred shot.


Panning photography can help you to produce some fascinating and unique images. However, with this type of photography you need to practice, to be able to produce the best images.

It is important you play around with your camera’s settings to get the right effect for you. Also, a tripod can help provide your images more stability as you execute the perfect pan.

We have outlined our top tips and tricks you should keep in mind to help you when it comes to panning. We hope this article has been helpful and given you a better idea on how you can master panning photography yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Most Common Panning Technique?

You can pan, up and down, and even diagonally. However, the most common panning technique is side to side.

While you can pan anyway you like it is significant to remember that most panning shots include a moving subject like a runner, animal or car. Hence, side to side panning is generally a better option to use.

How Do You Achieve A Panning Effect?

A successful panning shot requires the camera to move at the same rate as the subject. To create a great motion blur, the shutter needs to be open for a longer period of time.

Additionally, you need to ensure that the subject is in focus as well. Subjects frequently behave wildly or unpredictable, especially in sports, thus this may affect the type of focus you want to use.

Why Is Your Panning Shot Blurry?

If you find that your panning shots always end up blurry, this is a sign that you need a quicker shutter speed. The quicker shutter speed will help reduce the amount of blur you are receiving.

Although, you will need to experiment with this speed to get the right balance between sharpness and blur you desire.

Laura McNeill
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