How To Pan With Your Camera, Part Two

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So last week we delved into the “rules” for panning and hopefully you’ve had a chance to practice. It’s way hard, so be easy on yourself as you move through the learning curve. Panning takes a lot of time to master.

Quick review from last week. You know you set a relatively slow shutter speed when you pan, based on the speed of the subject. (Fast subjects require more shutter speed than slow subjects.) But it is also important to use the proper movement technique to control where blurring happens.

It starts with the stance. As you pan, you don’t want to physically move your body—camera and all—to track with the subject. To achieve a sharp subject, you must twist your upper body smoothly to follow the subject. Focus on whatever aspect of the photograph should be clearest, such as the middle of the horse and rider. (This, of course, varies with what you are panning.) Keep panning to follow the subject as you release the shutter. By keeping your body as still as possible and tracking the subject in the viewfinder, you will have a good chance of capturing the shot.

You are using your viewfinder, right? There just isn’t any other way. The body has to stay still and that requires holding your arms in against your sides with the camera against your forehead for the most stable position.

So now you have eliminated a variable you can completely control and you can concentrate on other things. Like the background. This one, obviously isn’t working. There isn’t much I can do to “fix” this image in post production. I can crop from the top to eliminate most of the ‘junk’ off to the left, but I can’t do anything about the big equipment behind the horse’s head.

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Not only does your shutter speed need to be set relative to the speed of the subject, but you have to pan along with the same speed as the subject. If you swing your body too fast, here is an example of what the result will look like.

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A good zoom lens is important for panning unless you are going to be at a fixed distance from your subject. We know that fixed focal length lenses are superior to zoom lenses, but there are many instances with action where you need to be able to change your lens length as the camera to subject distance changes.

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With a racing horse, place the subject off center with room for the action to “move into.” This will increase the feel of action in the photograph.

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With this image, I can crop from the top to put all the emphasis on the subjects.

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Good shooting!


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