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In todays world, one is constantly encountering an opportunity to capture dizzying movement with a panning technique. Digital Photo Academy instructor Frank Siteman, who leads weekend photo workshops in Boston, helps you understand the technique of panning. Learn more about Frank, and to see more of his images here.


The technique used to make this photo is called panning. It is a very effective means of conveying motion, and can bring amazing energy to a photo. To obtain images like this, one moves the camera with the subject, keeping the main object in the same place, relative to the edge of the frame. The image of the background sweeps from side to side while the car remains centered….or wherever you’ve placed it in the frame. You can check out the intensity of the blur by simple experimentation, moving the camera at different speeds and/or following subjects which move at different velocities. I like to find a shutter speed which gives me an acceptable and appealing blur and then find an aperture/ISO combination which gives neither an over nor under exposed file, checking your histogram to ensure you are not unnecessarily blowing out important details. 


how to use panning in photography


Digital photography makes panning shots relatively simple, as it gives you the means to adjust your settings to meet whatever situations you encounter, and provide you with an instant preview. 


In this instance, I was in the small village of Lyme Regis in England and saw this red coupe coming towards me at a relatively slow speed. In order to show it’s motion, I knew from experience that I would be able to get the results I wanted by setting my camera to it’s shutter priority mode and to a 1/15th of a second. If the car had been traveling slower, I might have used a 1/8th of a second exposure. 


This technique is wonderfully effective when shooting runners, people biking, dogs running or even kids playing soccer. The important thing is to find the shutter speed which works for your particular situation and then work around that setting.

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