Many people are scared of panning because they have tried it in the past and got poor results.

The reason we pan is because we want to isolate a moving object and capture the feel of speed in the image.

To create this shot correctly, all the rules about what shutter speed to use based on focal length get thrown completely out of the window. We need to select a shutter speed that will allow the fast moving parts of the scene to be blurred (such as the wheels of a car), the background to be blurred, but the subject perfectly sharp. The background blur is created because you are following the target and therefore there is movement in the background, the blurring of things like propeller blades and wheels must be achieved, or your subject looks like its just parked up somewhere.

To start with, your camera needs to have the correct settings, the easiest way to start is :

  • Set shutter to Continuous
  • Set Focusing to Continious
  • Set Camera to Shutter Priority
  • Select an appropriate shutter speed, allow the camera to set the aperture.

The shutter speed you set will be based on what your subject is:

  • Propeller Aircraft / Helicopters - 1/60 to 1/125
  • Jet Aircraft - 1/125 – 1/500
  • Racing Cars / Bikes - 1/60 – 1/250
  • You can adjust these settings as you perfect your panning technique.

So what's a good panning technique?

You need to be able to track your subject comfortably. You will never get a good shot if you feel twisted or uncomfortable when it comes to press the shutter. You never want to be fiddling with the zoom ring during a pan. Set it where you think is ideal, then adjust for the next series of shots if necessary. You must decide at what point you will fire the shutter, this is where your feet point. Your feet always point to the shot you are going to take. For example, if you are shooting a car as it passes in front of you, then your feet face this point, as the car approaches from either left or right, you turn your upper body, but not your feet. Raise the camera and half press to lock the target, then follow the target, your camera will keep it in focus because you selected continuous focus.

At the point the target passes you, squeeze the shutter (NOT PRESS) and keep panning, you must follow the target whilst the picture(s) are being taken. Take a series of 3–5 shots and then release.(remember you are still panning !!!)

When you have got the technique correct, the background should have a nice bit of blur, giving a sense of speed, and if your subject has moving parts, these should not be frozen.

If you struggle at first, then raise your shutter speed a little. It's better to have slightly less blur and a sharp subject while you are learning, than just a series of shots where everything is blurred.

Now, go practice!!