Sunday, November 05, 2006

Panning Technique

Red Bull Go Kart Action
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
Panning is a great way of showing subjects in motion, and to emphasize the movement of the subject. Regardless of how good you are, panning is always a hit-and-miss and you can expect some of the shots to come blurry. However, if you keep trying and follow a few simple guidelines, you should be rewarded with some great action shots.
1. Position yourself in such a way that the subject will pass directly in front of you.
2. Use a camera that supports manual focusing. If you shoot in auto-focus mode, the camera will take time acquiring focus and you will lose the shot or the focus will not be correct (unless you are using a high end professional camera). Also if you are using a small point & shoot camera, focusing is not such an issue because their tiny sensors mean the entire scene is in focus.
On the other hand, for a dSLR, the best thing to do is manually set the focus where you expect the subject to be. In this example, I focused as the drivers were passing me by, and made sure that they appeared sharp and not out-of-focus.
3. Next, you need to set you camera to shutter priority and select a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed of 1/15th to 1/30th of a second works best in these situations.
4. As the subject approaches you, follow the subject with the camera. When the subject is where the focus point is, click on the shutter button - BUT CONTINUE FOLLOWING THE SUBJECT!.
This is the key for great panning shots. As you click the shutter button, keep the camera following the subject. This way, the subject remains sharp, while the rest of the background gets blurred.
5. Practice, Practice!.


Renato said...

Question about auto races: Will the speed of cars impact on the shutter speed used? For example, suppose car is going on a straight part of speedway at about 270 km/h, and you are about 20m from where car is passing, shooting with a 50mm lens (35mm equiv). SS should still be as slow as 1/60, as you mention?

Cajie said...

I have not done any panning shots of high speed car races, but panning is more about technique rather than the speed of the subject.
1/60 looks a bit too fast even if the car is moving very fast. I think the sweet spot for panning is between 1/15 to 1/30th of a second.
The actual results will depend on your panning technique and keeping the subject in line as it moves and the duration of the shutter expsoure.