Panning is one of my favorite techniques to use when photographing fast-moving subjects. Basically what you are doing when you make a panning shot is you are following the subject and moving your lens along with them while pressing the shutter. Here are some tips for creating great panning shots:
1. Slow shutter-speed is the key. Using a slower-than-normal shutter speed will help you to effectively add motion-blur to the background. It’s usually a good idea to shoot in shutter-priority mode when creating panning photos.
2. The speed of the subject determines shutter-speed. Most of the time you won’t know exactly what your shutter speed should be in order to get a desirable image, and one factor you need to consider is how fast your subject is moving. To create a good amount of movement in the background and still keep the subject sharp a fast-moving subject will need a faster shutter-speed than a slow-moving subject.
3. Use a flash. Another useful tip is that if you have a flash or some sort of strobing light-source available then use it! It will help freeze your subject and allow you to use an even slower shutter-speed than without one. In the image in this post I wasn’t able to use a flash so I had to do my best to keep my camera steady and moving with the skater.
4. Follow-through to get the shot. Just like with kicking a ball or swinging a golf club you need to make sure that you follow the subject the entire way through the shot, and only stop once you are sure that your shutter is closed. This will help you get smooth lines in your background.
5. Use manual focus. If you know the spot that your subject will be passing by then pre-focus your lens. If you rely on auto-focus then your camera might not catch focus quickly enough, which means you would miss the shot altogether.
Panning requires a lot of trial-and-error, which I think is why I like it so much. You never quite know what you’re going to get and oftentimes you can be surprised when you review your shots. :)