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How to use Panning Technique

Cambodian girl cycling on Kampot old bridge, Cambodia - Lorenz Berna travel photography.

Panning Technique

How to take Panning Photos : Practical Tips –

[  Panning Photos & Text by Lorenz Berna  ]

Panning Photos: sense of Movement and Creativity for the Travel Photographer

If there is a little-used photographic technique out there among the lovers of travel photography, in my opinion, is Panning. The Panning technique, if used in the right context, can simply transform the ordinary into extraordinary. 

Panning is used to photograph moving subjects trying to render a sense of the real movement. In this way, having appropriately set the camera, we will get a picture in which the moving subject will be well defined, while the background will be shift, creating the actual sense of activity. In fact, the best thing about panning is the ability to recreate the movement effect of a given subject.

Let’s see together what are the steps to learn this photography technique.

In order to take advantage of the panning properly, it is essential to choose the right settings:

• A good monopod is certainly useful but not essential.

• Shooting mode must be on manual or time-priority mode, in order to control the exposure time.

• Exposure time must be slow enough to create the blur effect in the background (it will then be proportioned to the speed of the subject that we are chasing, surely it will not exceed 1 / 60s). I usually get good results with 1\30s.

• Autofocus mode must be on continuous (AlServo), to help us follow the moving object.

• Autofocus area selection mode must be single-point but dynamic, in order to allow us to position where we prefer the point of focus and help us to follow the subject.

• Stabilization must be disabled, to prevent the camera from attempting to eliminate the blurring effect that we want to introduce instead.

Cambodian public transport in Kampot, Cambodia
Cambodian public transport.

After having correctly set the camera and chosen the right position, we still have one thing to have in mind : the subject’s movement. Indeed, we must be able to approximately guess its trajectory, so we will be able to follow it without losing it too soon. Moroever, by anticipating the trajectory of our subject, we will be able to adjust our position accordingly.

To “set” our position correctly, the most evident results are obtained when the movement of the subject to be photographed is more or less parallel to our position.

Family on wheels in Kampot, Cambodia.
Family on wheels in Kampot, Cambodia.

Once the preparations are done and when the subject shows up, we must perform the following procedure:

• Position the subject in the frame at the chosen focusing point

• Begin to follow the subject to “synchronize” our movements with its speed

• Press the shutter-release button all the way down, gently, so as not to introduce excessive vibrations (remember that the exposure time is slow, so these are more visible)

• After leaving the button, continue to follow the subject for a moment, in order to be sure that the diaphragm has closed.

A further precaution to be taken is to make multiple shots, in order to optimize chances for THE good shot, by selecting the appropriate mode and keeping the shutter button pressed.

Old man on an electrical bike, in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, Israel.
Old man on an e-bike, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old Jerusalem.

To use the panning technique, as we have seen, no special tools are needed and almost all the cameras on the market are suitable. In reality, however, when you put it into practice you realize that it is not that easy to use it successfully. Especially to get exactly the desired result for each picture. It is therefore important to become familiar with Panning, experimenting it as much as possible. With time and pratice, you will quickly understand what exposure time to use and how to position ourselves in the best way.

Learn how to take panning photos and your next travel photographs will surely be more alive.

That’s it for now, hope this has been helpful somehow.

Be Happy, stay in Focus and Travel more.

– Lorenz –