Panning Photography Tips [Duel]

This week's theme is panning.  Dustin and Jim each had only 1 hour to head out and come back with a panning shot.

The reason that this duel is focusing on panning is because it is one of the projects that the students in Jim and Dustin's Online Beginning Photography Class do.

Panning means using a slow shutter speed and swinging the camera to follow the motion of a moving object.  Because the camera swings at the same speed as the moving object, the moving object appears sharp in the photo.  The background, however, is still so the swinging motion of the lens makes it appear blurry.  If you are new to panning, read my 6 tips for better panning photography.

New to the weekly Improve Photography Duel?  Check out this page, where we explain how it works.  A new camera duel will be released each Monday, and we're asking YOU to vote on the photos below.

Settling the Score

The current score from past duels leaves Jim with 3 wins, Dustin with 2 wins, and 1 tie.

You can pin this photography trick on your Pinterest board to remember for later!
You can pin this photography trick on your Pinterest board to remember for later!

Panning Duel

Jim Here:  I wanted to try something totally different for this week's duel so I used a photography trick that I tried for the first time.  Since I spend most of my weekend playing with my kids, I decided to take a picture of them.  My son, Ruger, loves to get spun around so I took that motion and made a panning shot out of it.

Jim's Process:  To take this picture, I strapped my DSLR to my chest by cinching up the neck strap so the camera was high on my chest and tight against my body.  Then, I focused the camera on my son and locked the focus by flipping the switch on the lens to manual focus.  Then, I set my camera on the timelapse feature so that it would continuously take pictures as we spun around.  You could use the self-timer, but then you only get one shot.

5 minutes later… I had my shot.

Jim's Metadata: Shutter speed: 1/40, Aperture: f/14, ISO 100, Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 at 24mm.

Panning photo of a boy spinning around holding hands with his Dad.
Panning photo of my son, Ruger.

Dustin Here: Panning photography is a very challenging concept, especially when you do it in low light… like at sunset on a back road. It's no secret that I love cars and photographing them is a lot of fun for me. However, the driver of this car wasn't seeing the “fun” as I had him drive back and forth several times to get as many shots as I could. In the end – I was able to come up with something that was in focus, had good composition, and a sky full of clouds with sunset color.

Dustin's Process: A lot of our online students will take on our Panning challenge as an exercise and it can be a very frustrating process when you're trying to capture motion, blur, sharpness, composition, and creativity all in one shot. Here are a few tips I have for you and what I did while panning.

1. You need a slower shutter speed. Anywhere between 1/40 – and 1/6 is slow enough to capture action and blur at the same time.

2. Your subject needs to be moving at a fairly consistent speed. If they slow down or speed up in the process, then your panning will not be “in sync.”

3. You might want to try moving your camera and have a stationery background. An example of this would be placing your camera on a Merry-Go-Round and spinning it with your subject on there.

4. With your shutter speeding being the important factor here – you will expose with your f/stop and then lastly your ISO. Below you can see what my settings were to achieve the shot that I did.

These tips and ideas should be enough to at least get you started and seeing some decent results. It will take you a few attempts before you see something that is amazing! But be patient – you'll learn a lot in the process.

Dustin's Metadata: Shutter speed: 1/30, Aperture: f/4, ISO 800, Camera: Canon 6D, Lens: Canon 24-105mm lens at 24mm.

Sunset Shadows - by Dustin Olsen
Sunset Shadows – by Dustin Olsen

Let the Voting Begin!

If you receive these posts via email, you need to come to the page on Improve Photography to see the polling mechanism below to cast your vote.

10 thoughts on “Panning Photography Tips [Duel]”

  1. While this all began as a contest between Canon and Nikon, I think the series of pictures so far shows that both brands are equal, and it is the planning, execution, and processing of the photos that make them better. Not the cameras.

  2. Pics if cute kids and cute pets are almost like cheating, I think some will overlook any visual discrepancies (if any) in light of the subject matter, having said that I still voted for the pic of Jims’ son great compasition IMO. Having a toddler myself made me over rule me fondness of the VW Passat even thought the clouds are terrific the look on Rugers face is priceless.

  3. I have to agree that kids can win out everytime 🙂 I love the picture though, he’s so well focused and the blurr of the background in the swing, it’s awesome!! Although I love the colors in Dustin’s photo the focal point I see is the right rear tail light, just not enough.

  4. You’re right! Kids certainly do win EVERY time! 🙂 Ruger has such a great expression especially when he said, “Dad, I don’t feel like swinging today.”

    Nice job on the photo, Jim!. I wish I had a 3 year old on hand to swing around as I please.

  5. And – for those who feel that there isn’t enough of the car in focus – I would agree! I wish that more of the car was in focus, but to avoid photoshopping my “panning blur” into the photo… I took what I got straight out of the camera.

    If you’re looking for a challenge to do with your photography cause you’re in a rut or bored… go pan cars. 🙂

  6. I would agree that using pictures of cute kids is kind of a dirty trick, but I would have to vote for Jim this week due to the sharpness of the subject in this shot versus Dustin’s. I do however, like Dustin’s colors and composition. It looks like something that VW tries to use in their ads.

  7. I absolutely prefer Dustin’s photo. And I should said the fact there’s no much car in focus is what makes that picture beautiful. There’s an uncanny feeling to the whole, specially because of the dense mood of the available colors. Is both nostalgic and haunting.

  8. It’s a bit of an unfair challenge here. The smiling faces of children gives it the edge almost every time.
    As a bonus, you also get a real sense of motion…something lacking in the car photo, which also lacks any real focal point, although the clouds are really nice.

  9. Hi… Still fairly new to photography so this might sound silly… In Dustin’s pic, how was the light stream avoided from the cars lights…? Usually in such low light and with movement there would be a stream, although this probably has to do with the shutter speed not being too slow? Sorry. I know it’s probably such a silly question but I would appreciate the feedback no less 😉

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top