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It’s easy to freeze motion with a camera. Usually, a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second to 1/2000th of a second will freeze just about anything or anyone in place. But sometimes, that won’t matter. Some things that move should be shown moving. The problem is, you end up on the other end of the spectrum and the subject just looks blurry. The solution is to pan the camera with the subject to blur the background but yet, retain enough sharpness on the subject to convey the story.
The key to this is getting the right shutter speed first. Usually 1/30 to 1/60th of a second is a good starting point depending on ISO and the amount of ambient light. It takes several tries but start there. You don’t want a shutter speed that is too fast because that freezes everything. You don’t want one that is too slow because that makes everything too blurry.
The next thing to think about is focus. If you have fast autofocus, you should set it to work with moving subjects. If you don’t have AF you should manually pre-focus on a spot where you hope to intercept the action and go from there.
Once that’s all set, and you think you have the proper general exposure, you just have to practice moving the camera in unison with the subject.
I find that positioning myself at a 90 degree angle to the subject and background works best. I like to bend my knees in a wide stance so I can picture my body as a tripod with a head on it rotating through the shot.
Snap the picture at the point where you want the subject to intersect with the background. Repeat this using different shutter speeds until you get the result you want.
Be sure to try to keep the camera level as you pan with the action.
Sometimes you can use a flash to stop the action of the subject, while still blurring the background. This is a more advanced technique that I won’t cover here, but know that it is an option.
You should know that even the pros have to sometimes make several tries to get the shot they want. Be patient and work at it. It all boils down to timing. So make lots of attempts and eventually you’ll get the shot.