Panning : Cars and Bikes

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panning_PTC_3970This is Part 3 from our Photo Walk in DC.

See Part 1, and Part 2.

Panning is fun photo technique. It’s not the easiest thing to do as it takes patience, but it sure is rewarding when you nail a shot.

I recently posted a behind scenes video of my first attempt at panning autumn trees. It almost was an epic fail but I was happy with the result and it was a valuable learning experience.

The process of panning a non-moving subject and panning a moving subject is slightly different but the concept is the same: Use a slow shutter speed, and pan your camera.

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8 Steps for Panning Moving Subjects

1. Find a location with lots of moving subjects to ensure many opportunities for you to practice. Cars, bikers, or runners are perfect subjects for this.

2. Set your camera to Shutter Priority mode (S in Nikon and TV in Canon), or Manual Mode.

3. Use a slow shutter speed such as 1/40, 1/30, 1/15. There’s no set rule for what shutter speed to use as this depends on the speed of your subject. If your subject is a race car driving by at 200mph you can get away with using a faster shutter speed like 1/60, 1/40 but for a biker or a car on a street not going as fast 1/60 won’t give you as blurry of a background as you’d want in a panning shot. So play around a find a shutter speed that works in your situation. For these photos, I used 1/8, 1/10, and 1/15.

4. Turn on continuous burst mode shooting as you’d want to take multiple shots.

5. Turn on continuous auto focus. Continuous Servo AF or Nikon and AI Servo for Canon.

I’m assuming you know how to set the correct exposure, so I’m moving on to the next step.

6. Stay parallel to the subjects path.

7. As you see a car focus on it, and as it passes in front of you fire off multiple shots as you pan along the car in the same speed from left to right or right to left whichever direction is moving.

8. As you pan, keep your camera steady, pressed against your face/forehead to ensure your subject is sharp.

* Be patient. It’s likely that you won’t nail a shot in your first try.

**Pressing the shutter half way to focus and firing off multiple shots is perfectly fine if it works for you.

***In my opinion there’s a huge benefit in using back button focus in this situation.

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