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Panning Tips, Tricks & Techniques (That I Use!)

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In todays article, we are going to have a look at PANNING TECHNIQUES and what works for me. There are a lot of different ways to go about panning for many different situations, but essentially you need to find what works for you.

I went up to the Old Pacific Hwy on the weekend to take some panning shots of motorcyclists (I am a keen motorcyclist so i thought this would be a great way to demonstrate panning).



 - If you can put your camera (cannon) On AF SERVO , which is a mode that keeps adjusting the focus as you move the camera (even with the shutter held halfway down), it will make your life a lot easier

- Set your camera drive mode to continuous burst. This is allows you the keep shooting at your cameras maximum rate. NB: If you cant seem to shoot at a high enough rate, it maybe because you have Noise Reduction (high iso or shutter speed) as well as other in camera functions on. Turn these off and it should fix the issue.


- ISO is your friend! I know for certain situation, i like a particular shutter speed and/or aperture. You can adjust your ISO to get to your desired shutter speed and aperture

- Aperture or Depth of Field has little to do with getting a blurred background. A lot of people seem to think that if they use a larger aperture (smaller F/ number) then this will help create a blurred background, which essentially what we want. Depending on the subject, i will generally use an aperture of f/7 to about to approximately f/13. Depending on the size, of the subject and how far away you are from them, you may find that using a large aperture of f/2.8 you may not get the entire subject in focus.


- Shutter Speed is your main focus when panning to create both as sharp as possible image with a blurred background. Start off shooting in Shutter Priority Mode. Setting a the right shutter speed depends on how fast the subject is travelling, how far away from the subject you are and what focal length you are using. In these photos i was on the side of the road, approximately 4-10metres away. No matter how fast the subject is moving, i still follow the rule for shutter speed vs focal length to minimise camera shake. The rule being, if you are using a focal length of 100mm, then the shutter speed should not be any less then 1/100. If you are using a 70mm focal length then a shutter speed now lower then 1/70. Now this is only a rule, it CAN be broken. But start of with this as a guide. In this series of photos i was shooting at between 1/60 and 1/100


- Tracking the Subject: Say the subject is approaching coming from left to right. Start tracking the subject when they appear in view and try to keep the subject in the middle of the viewfinder and pan Smoothly from left to right, with out stopping or slowing down mid pan otherwise you will get a useless image. I generally start panning when the subject is in sight but only start pressing the shutter when they are at 45 degrees from me on either side ie \ | / (if that makes sense). Remember to keep tracking the subject even when you have taken your finger of the shutter.


- I am generally don't use a monopod or tripod for panning. Using a tripod things can get a bit tricky. Monopods are easier to use for panning. I am a little bit uncoordinated and depending on the day (how uncoordinated i am) i may have one hand on the camera body and shutter as normal and another guiding the lens. Sometimes i seem to have my left hand fighting against my right hand, where i am pushing the camera body one way and pulling the lens the other way. When im having an UNCOordinated day, i will try shooting with just one hand on the camera body and nothing guiding the lens (this depends how larger your lens is and what focal length you are using). Believe it or not, you do need a bit of coordination when panning. ABOVE ALL, Just remember to pan SMOOTHLY (constant speed) from left to right or vice versa.


- Your cameras viewing screen is SMALL and deceptive. You may think from looking at it, the subject is in focus. ZOOM as much as you can on viewing the image to confirm, you might be unpleasantly surprised. When I'm taking photos of bikes, i zoom in as much as i can on the viewing screen and as a guide, if i can see the writing on the side of the bike (Model, Name, Brand etc) then i know i have got in focus.



Here are a few photos i took on the weekend. I hope this can be of some help to you. If you have any thoughts, techniques and/or suggestions, please leave a comment.



This was shot at 1/60, f7.1 ISO 320 at 70mm (see the rule can be broken)





This was shot at 1/80, f8 ISO 400 at 70mm




This was shot at 1/80, f3.2 at 70mm. Notice how the rider is leaning quite a bit off the bike and is not focused that well (he is closer to me then the actual bike).

When using a large aperture and depending on how close you are to the subject (i was relatively close, a few metres), you may get out of focus areas of the subject as below.



As always: If you would like any of your photos added to our blog, please email me a bit about what you took and the photos. Alternatively (and probably easier) add them to our Facebook page HERE and we can link them to the blog!

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Have a great day!


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