How do they do that?
Images that capture the sense of motion while keeping the subject sharp and in focus? I will give a brief and simple explanation here with some quirky examples to whet the appetite of anyone interested in trying this form of action photography.
Indian Cycle Rickshaw in Action.
Panning is a Photographic technique which takes a little practice to perfect but once you have the know how and skills to get it right you will be rewarded with some very interesting and creative shots. The idea is to convey motion in a shot without blurring the main subject and creating a motion blur effect with the background.
Overloaded motorbike in Indonesia
So the panning technique is to create a sense of motion within the image and this is the tough part! To create this we need a blurred background/foreground and a sharp moving subject.
Killing two birds with one stone…
For the blurred effect we have to pan the camera which should be focused on the subject we wish to be sharp (using AI Servo mode which focuses and tracks the subject once focus is locked on) at roughly the same speed as the actual subject is moving. Then take the picture with a slow shutter speed setting on the camera which creates the blurred effect on anything but the focused subject.
This is the magic formula which creates a blurred out of focus background and sharp subject.
Less Haste More Speed!
Obviously a camera that supports creative modes, for Panning shots Shutter Priority function labelled as TV on the camera dial is necessary unless you are confident enough to go for full manual settings.
- ND or Neutral Density filter can be useful if you are shooting slow moving subjects in bright light where the shutter speed can be down to a 1/25th of a second. If you don’t possess an ND filter but want to shoot slower moving subjects you can shoot in the late afternoon or early morning when the light is not so intense.
- Tripod or Monopod for the same reason as above if you don’t have the steadiest of hands and aren’t able to perform a smooth panning motion these pieces of equipment will help, personally I prefer handheld as it is less restrictive.
Transportation in Pontianak, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo
If your preference is Sports Photography and panning images of racing cars or motorbikes your shutter speed settings will be much faster than for slow moving subjects.
A shutter speed of around 1/125th up to 1/250th is ideal for fast moving subjects, for example Superbikes haring around a racetrack. Your shutter speed which will be related to the speed with which your subject is moving will control how much background blur you create when panning so even if you are shooting at faster shutter speeds your camera will still detect movement in the background when tracking a faster moving object.
Catch me if you can! – 1/25 sec f/13 ISO 100
The following images are examples of how motion blur is possible even with slow or extremely slow moving subjects. Hand Pulled Rickshaw wala’s in Kolkata (formally Calcutta), India where the tradition still survives provides the example!
Slow moving subject – 1/25 sec f/6.3 ISO 100
Rotating wheels of a Hand Pulled Rickshaw in Kolkata
As we can see the Rickshaw Wala is almost at a standstill in the first hand pulled rickshaw shot above hence the shop windows in the background are not so blurred as the panning action was slow and shutter speed at 1/25th sec but the overtaking car at a faster speed gives an extra boost to convey the feeling of motion in the shot.
The second image where the Hand Pulled Rickshaw is moving slightly faster creates that little bit more of a motion blur effect in the background and starts to ghost passers-by.
One more thing to point out which can help when shooting with wide aperture and slow shutter speed to get more of the subject in focus is the Focal Plane factor. Depending on how important it is to have all the subject or not in focus then we have to take into account the camera’s focal plane being parallel to the subject. As we pan the better we can keep the camera parallel to the moving subject will dictate how much that subject will be in focus. The image below could be regarded as bad panning as the focal plane wasn’t that parallel to the subject hence only the horses rear end is sharp and in focus. Nevertheless I was pleased with the result. Sometimes not being perfect yields good results…
At The Races – Vigan in the Philippines – 1/30 sec f/13 ISO 100
The Art of Panning
The focus settings if you are using a Canon camera should be set to AI Servo which when you half click the shutter button on your decided focal point will track the subject as you move and adjust focus for you by updating itself.
When you pan your feet should be shoulder width apart, hold your camera firmly with your elbows tucked in and start tracking your subject as soon as it comes into view from right to left or left to right. Keep your feet facing forward and pivot your waist from the hips in a smooth motion panning action at roughly the same speed as your moving subject and click the shutter when it is in the position you want but don’t stop there continue to pan, following through tracking the subject after you have clicked the shutter. You can also use machine gun mode and fire a few shots off as you pan.
Home made vehicle on the streets of East Java, Indonesia
Things to Consider
Delivery Service in Asia!
So go get yourselves out there and have a go. Happy shooting and experiment, practice practice practice, before you know it you will have some really nice shots! Just remember this is Slow Shutter Photography but not quite Long Exposure Photography, that’s another post.