Panning is a great way to show motion in an image when you are photographing a moving object.
The basic concept of panning is following the moving subject with your camera in order to create a blurred background while your subject is still in focus.
Here are six tips to help you create better panning images.
1. Move your body (camera) with the moving subject
This takes practice but will ensure that at least a portion of your subject is in focus. Moving too slowly or too quickly will cause your subject to blur as well.
This image was created with my old Minolta XG-1 film camera and the Minolta MD 100-300mm f5.6 lens at the Indianapolis 500 time trials in 1984.
2. Use a slower shutter speed
When you do this you allow yourself time to follow your subject, keeping that in focus while blurring the background. Putting your camera in shutter priority mode can make this a bit easier.
3. The speed of your subject is will help determine your shutter speed
Consider the difference between a speeding race car and a person running. A race car will require a higher shutter speed than someone running in order to create the image you want.
4. Using a flash can also be helpful
When you use a flash or strobe it will freeze your subject. This allows you to slow your shutter speed down further so your background will show the motion.
5. Don’t stop panning with your camera until you are sure the shutter has closed
This makes your background lines smooth and continuous.
6. Use manual focus
If you know where your subject is heading, pre-focus on the spot where they will be, then follow them from there. Autofocus may not be fast enough to pick up your subject in time and you’ll miss the opportunity altogether.
Learning the panning technique can take a great deal of trial and error. Keep practicing. Start out by photographing slower subjects and move your way up to those subjects that are faster. There are other panning techniques that can be fun as well.