How to make panning shots

The panning technique is very useful when the subject is in motion and we want ensure that the photography reflects that it’s moving. Since we’ll lock the subject as our target, and we’ll shoot it while moving the camera following its motion, the subject will be focused and the background will be blurry due to the motion.

Getting ready

To make these photos I was camping under a bridge in Amsterdam, a good place to ambush cyclists. I set my Fujifilm X-T2 to a slow shutter speed 1/30, a good speed to shoot with an OIS lens, something required (or IBIS) due to the motion and the slow shutter. So why under a bridge? It wasn’t just because the view was clear with no people or shops behind, it was also because there was still a lot of daylight and with a speed like 1/30 I would’ve needed a neutral density filter to avoid getting the shots all burnt, and I wasn’t carrying one with me. So under the bridge was good because there wasn’t much light and also because I liked this urban setting.

Another setting I prepared in the camera was the tracking. I set the X-T2 to continuous focus tracking and left it in the default setting, because the other settings that track an object accelerating and decelerating in the frame or an object suddenly entering the field, didn’t apply in this case. I made these photos using the XF 18-55 lens that has OIS and it’s a good overall lens for urban or street photography.

Ready, set, pan!

The panning technique requires you to first lock the target in the continuous focus tracking so it will look crisp. Do this when the subject is approaching, when the subject is about 45º to your right or left. After that, press the shutter moving the camera in the same direction that the subject is traveling, trying to match its motion speed.

It takes a lot of practice and I don’t really think I’ve nailed it yet. It’s a hit or miss thing, although it’s fun and when it’s done right, the image looks unique, much better than shooting everything static. Have you tried this before? Let me know in the comments.

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