In this video, Natalie Fobes explains the most effective techniques for panning in motion-centric photographs. For more LinkedIn Learning videos about photography, click here.

There are times that you want to stop action and yet still convey motion, so the answer for you is to pan. A pan is simply to follow the action with your camera at a slow shutter speed. There are lots of ways to mess up a pan, and believe me, I have done them all. But with a few tips it will help bring up your percentage of success, with this technique.

So the first thing that we are going to do is look for a background that has a nice texture to it or gradations of black and white or great color. That will really add interest to your background. The next thing is to figure out how fast the subject is actually going and adjust your shutter speed accordingly. I like to use between the 1/15s and 1/60s for my shutter speeds when I’m doing a pan. And then the next thing to do is to figure out your focus situation. Now I’ve found that using a servo, the automatic focus in servo mode, is really all I need to do, and that is always recalculating the focus as we go along.

And then the final tip, and probably the most important tip that I can give you, is to think about where the action is going to start and where the action is going to end. Take your feet and point it at where you think the action is going to end, and then you can curve your body around and look at where the action is going to start. As these runners go by us, I will be very smoothly photographing as my body naturally unwinds.

This video is from The Elements of Effective Photographs by Natalie Fobes

OK, so let’s try it out. I’m shooting at 1/60s, and I am at an ISO of 100. I am on shutter priority, and I think we are ready to go. Are you guys ready? All right, let’s do it.

Great! Now did you see how smooth that was, to just follow them as they came by me? It works really well. Oh yeah, OK, so I’m seeing some of the pans in there. I am seeing some of the streaks from the background. But I think that we can try it a little bit slower. I am going to move my camera back down to 1/30s and see what we can get from that. OK, gentlemen, are you ready?

OK. Oh yeah. OK, that’s working. The streaks from the bleachers are really cool. They are really nice and long, and yet I still have the action stopped on one of the runners. This is going to be fun. I think I am going to take it down to 1/15s and just see what that will do. All right, are you ready to roll?

Okay, yeah, I think maybe the 1/15s was a little bit slow for the message that I’m trying to send. It certainly was artistic, but there was nothing in focus. I’m not quite sure that gets across the message of speed that I was hoping for. Now remember the 1/30s was really nice. The streaks of the bleachers were really long and yet parts of the athletes were sharp, and the action had been stopped. So I am going to take a look at that again. That one was the best one so far.

Now the thing with pans is, don’t expect to get it on your first try. Just keep working at it. Keep trying. Keep experimenting with different shutter speeds. I mean eventually, you’ll get to a point where your percentage of success goes up, but nobody, no matter how experienced they are, gets it on the first try. Have fun with it.

Lead photo by David Marcu on Unsplash