Secrets to panning success

October 27, 2010

There are a few reasons to use a slow shutter speed on fast or slow moving objects.

In sports like Formula One it is a great technique to visualize the actual speed. If you use 1/1000 sec on a race car it almost looks like the car is parked on the track. If you pan the picture on a slow shutter speed the actual speed of the race is a lot more visible.

Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Spain steers his car to win the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheim race track, July 25, 2010.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Another reason for using pans is simply to get a more “creative” image of an originally boring or ordinary moment. Using a slow shutter speed of a company CEO walking into a news conference is often a better illustration than a “talking head” shot.

Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) addresses the media during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarter in Frankfurt, August 5, 2010.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The most important aspect to creating a nice panning picture is the right movement with your camera. If you follow an object too fast you will not “freeze” the essential part of the picture (like an athlete, car etc…).

I usually play around with different exposure times. New lens technologies with image stabilizing programs help keep the image sharp but it is still important that the photographer does not move the camera vertically while following an object on a horizontal plane. If you move both ways the image will look shaky and most of the time its not usable.

Colorful backgrounds have a nice effect on the image as the characteristic “stripes” behind the moving object visualize speed a lot better than plain colors.

Bryan Clay of the U.S. competes during the men's heptathlon event at the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships at the Aspire Dome in Doha March 12, 2010. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

You can use the pan technique in almost every sport. Of course it is easier to get good results in sports with straight, kind of one-dimensional, horizontal movement, like 100m sprints, car racing, ski jumping, etc – when you shoot your pictures side on. I found that it is good to shoot only one frame of each scene. When you keep your finger on the trigger and release frame after frame it is highly unlikely you’ll get the right moment with the right movement sharp.

Athletes take part in the 37th Berlin marathon in Berlin September 26, 2010.   REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

(Click here to view a selection of images that employ the panning technique)

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

what is the usual or ideal shutter speed in panning technique, shooting a subject on horizontal plane? thanks!

Posted by gingy | Report as abusive