14 Tips To Capture An Award-Winning PANNING PHOTOGRAPH

Image courtesy: Chiiz

You must have seen those photos where the car or the motorcycle appears sharp and in focus whereas the background appears to be in motion-blurred effect. At first, you may have thought that it’s a Photoshop trick. And did you ever wonder how professional photographers manage to capture a fast-moving subject with an amazing blurry background? 

The one thing that photographs don’t capture easily is movement. In photography, conveying motion is one of the most challenging tasks. This is where Panning Photography comes into play. The idea is that you capture a moving object while moving the camera along with it, preferably at the same speed. 

This blog will take you through everything you need to know about Panning photography. There’s no magic trick to this, it’s just a really cool technique which takes a little practice, but once you’ve cracked it, your photos will look more professional too! 

Understanding Panning Photography

Panning is a camera technique that involves focusing on a moving object while moving the camera to create blurred motion in the background and create a sense of motion while keeping the moving subject sharp. By doing so, we will end up creating a relatively sharp subject combined with a background that features motion blur for a stunning photograph. This gives the image a feeling of movement and speed. 

To capture a Panning shot, choose a moving subject and a shutter speed slow enough to capture its movement. A successfully panned shot will show the subject off sharply whilst its background is blurred. The beauty of Panning Photograph is that the final image is highly dependent on the shutter speed set by the user, with slower shutter speeds giving the motion blur effect. 

Panning Photography is a great way to imply motion in our photography. Sometimes it even makes the image look almost ethereal. It uses slower shutter speeds combined with a sweeping motion of the camera that follows at the same speed as your subject. Any moving subject can be photographed using the Panning Photography technique, but the faster the subject is moving the easier it is to get a more blurry background.

Panning Photography is most often used in the following types of photography-

14 Tips To Delve Into Panning Photography

Mastering the art of Panning Photography is often tricky and takes time. Here, we have enumerated 14 easy to understand tips that will help you to capture award-winning perfect Panning photographs:- 


1. Setting Camera Mode

The first thing that we have to do as we hold the camera to capture a Panning photograph is to set the camera mode to Shutter Priority. 

A shutter priority mode ( “S” for most brands and “Tv” for Canon) allows the photographer to choose a specific shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture to produce a commensurate exposure. 

This will let us control the shutter speed and ensure that the camera adjusts the aperture on its own while the ISO values are taken care of by the camera and will vary depending on the lighting conditions. It’ll usually pick the lowest, ISO100.

Image courtesy: Chiiz

Image courtesy: Chiiz

2. Shutter Speed

Panning photography is all about the correct choice of shutter speed. It is the most important exposure element of Panning photography.

The shutter speed mainly depends on our subject and the speed at which it is moving, but a good rule of thumb would be to start at 1/30th of a second. Choose a moderately slow shutter speed, relative to the speed of the subject. This shutter speed allows enough time for the camera to register movement in the photo while keeping the subject in sharp focus.

Start with 1/30 second for moving subjects like people walking or cycling. With something like Slow-moving cyclists or runners, start with a shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/15 of a second. Be careful not to go too slow though, as it’ll ruin the effect altogether. To pan a fast-moving car, you may try the speed of 1/60 to 1/125 second. 

If we use high shutter speed, the more clear the background will turn out, and the less motion blur there will be, such as on 1/4000th, both the subject and background will be completely static.

You’ll need to experiment with varying shutter speeds to learn more about which speeds can achieve your desired effect.

Image courtesy: Chiiz

3. Set The Continuous Shooting Mode

It’s recommended to set the camera to continuous shooting mode or burst mode when Panning. By doing so, the chances of getting both an excellent image and a subject that is in focus increases.

Today’s digital cameras can quickly shoot at six frames per second, using continuous shooting mode.

This will also minimize camera shake from pressing the Shutter button. 

When Panning, it’s good to capture more than one shot. In fact, with a one-shot, we’ll press the shutter too early, and have to press the shutter again, by which it may be too late.

 Image courtesy: Chiiz


You’ll likely want your subject to be focused and the background blurred. But how do we keep our subject in focus? It is really important to lock the focus on the subject accurately.

There are two ways in order to make the subject appear in sharp focus, whereas the background appears to be in motion:

  • Automatic Focus Technique

Always use this technique if you are a beginner or if you are not sure about the distance of the subject from the camera. To make sure that you focus on the subject accurately, switch on the continuous focus tracking mode (AF-C on Nikon, and AI Servo on Canon). This helps your camera to continuously focus on the subject if it moves out of the original focal point. 

  • Manual Focus Technique

This technique is handy if we are sure about the distance at which our subject will pass by. Focus on the point where the subject will be reaching beforehand and then switch the focusing mode to manual. This ensures to click at a much faster rate as the lens will not be constantly hunting for the subject. Simply pan your camera along with the moving subject and click multiple photos, later choose the best among all.

In the end, it all depends on you to choose which technique. It’s very important that your subject is in focus. Most advanced photographers prefer manual focus, but they also have enough experience in maintaining a steady subject distance.

 Image courtesy: Chiiz

5. Tripod/Monopod-Mounted Camera

The best way to focus accurately on our subject while getting a smooth picture is to set up the camera on a tripod. We can also practice shooting our subject by connecting the camera to the monopod and place the strap either around our neck or wrap it around our palm. 

Clicking photos hand-held at a slower shutter speed might introduce a slight shake in our photos.

Using a tripod or a monopod mounted camera will minimize the upwards or downwards movement of the camera and will only allow the camera to pan side to side.

Image courtesy: Chiiz


6. Rear Curtain Sync Flash

If you’ve just started learning Panning photography, using the flash can be a help. To both amplify the motion blur and get the subject frozen in motion at the same time, we use a rear curtain sync flash. 

This flash technique fires the flash towards the end of the exposure– just before the shutter closes and it will freeze the motion in the shot, and then we complete the Panning as we normally would. The slow shutter speeds recommended for Panning photographs will blur the motion while the rear curtain flash freezes the subject’s movement towards the end of our exposure. We also get a really cool light flow in the opposite direction of the subject’s movement.

Flash is optional. While many professional photographers refrain from using the flash for stylistic reasons, a flash can help a beginner photographer who is learning the Panning photography technique.


 Image courtesy: Chiiz

7. Image Stabilization/ Vibration Reduction

By turning on Image Stabilization / Vibration Reduction we will create enough movement with the low shutter speed to get the streaks, and this will help our subject look sharp.

Image stabilization is specifically designed to counteract camera movements and vibrations which is intended behavior when Panning. It works by ignoring motion in the direction of Panning while counteracting other movements of the camera.

In Nikon cameras, Vibration Reduction (VR) mode makes Panning Photograph a lot more consistent and much easier to accomplish. The VR function offers two setting choices:

  • Normal VR Mode

Normal VR mode is used for most Panning circumstances. It can be used while Panning a motorcycle rider, a guy running, or a racing car.

  • Active VR Mode

Active VR mode is used when there are a lot of moving parts to the subject. It can be used when a photographer is shooting from a moving vehicle like a boat, bus, or a helicopter.

Image courtesy: Chiiz

8. Positioning Yourself

Having a good stance while Panning is very important. Having a good, steady posture will support your camera well, preventing it from bobbing up and down as we follow our subject and ensures a nicesmooth Panning motion.

If we position ourselves too close to the moving subject, then our lens may fail to focus on the subject because of the distance being shorter than the minimum focusing distance.

The way you stand is one of the most important factors in creating Panning shot success. Follow these simple tips to correctly position yourself while Panning:-

  • Stand up straight With Your Legs a Shoulder’s Width Apart
  • Check that you have free movement of your upper body, so you’ll be able to follow the subject’s movement without your arms being obstructed
  • Don’t move your feet while you pan
  • Swivel towards your subject in the direction it is coming from
  • Rest your index finger lightly on the shutter button
  • Follow your subject in the viewfinder as they move closer to you
  • Rotate your body at the same speed as the subject, in the same direction



 Image courtesy: Chiiz

9. Choosing Our Subject

To master the art of the Panning photography technique, we really need to have an eye for focusing on our subject through the camera lens. 

Best to start off is choosing a subject that’s moving at a slower pace and in a straight line, like someone strolling, a car slowing down, or a jogger. Once you get the hang of Panning, you can choose faster subjects like moving cars, bike riders, running cyclists, or even roller coasters.

Choose your subject up in the viewfinder well before it arrives where you intend to press the shutter button, and start following it. You can also pre-focus your camera so that it’s focusing on the subject based on the distance the subject is away from you.

You should be quick enough otherwise you may miss the shot.



Image courtesy: Chiiz

10. Half Pressing The Shutter

Before our subject reaches the point where we want to take the photo, hold down the shutter halfway to lock focus on the subject. This tells the camera to start focusing on the subject and perform auto-exposure.

If you have chosen the continuous auto-focus mode, the camera will continue to focus on the subject from now on. Without letting go of the shutter, start following the subject with the camera at the same speed. The camera would automatically adjust focus.

If we skip to the full press of the shutter button, we might not get a great focus on the subject in our photo. 

 Image courtesy: Chiiz

11. Moving With The Subject

We must focus on keeping the moving subject in the same portion of the camera frame while Panning our camera along with the subject.

One thing we need to make sure is that the speed at which we are Panning the camera should match with the speed at which the subject is passing by our frame. Keep following the subject’s motion smoothly, in a horizontal position.

There must be enough space between us and the subject so our Panning movement is unrestricted. 

Positioning our camera at the same level as the subject we are going to shoot will help in focusing to obtain a clear subject in your image.

Image courtesy: Chiiz

12. Fully Pressing The Shutter

When your subject arrives at the designated shoot position, fully press down the camera’s shutter button, but don’t stop the smooth horizontal Panning motion. Keep the camera moving smoothly.

By doing so, we will ensure that our subject is completely in focus and appears sharp, while we get to perfectly capture blur motion in the background.

For smoother horizontal movement and clearer focused subject, use a tripod on level ground.

 Image courtesy: Chiiz

13. Checking The Shot

Now, just a second or two after you’ve taken the photo, or when you can’t physically keep tracking the subject, you can stop the horizontal Panning motion. You can’t stop moving until the shot is done as it’ll negatively affect the image.

Now that you’ve captured your first Panning shot, take a look at the Shot and check whether the subject is sufficiently sharp and that the background is sufficiently blurred.

If the subject isn’t sharp enough, increase your shutter speed, And If the background isn’t blurry enough, then decrease your shutter speed. And try again.

Image courtesy: Chiiz

14. Practice, Practice, and Practice !!!

The secret to successful Panning photography is simple – practice, practice, and practice!

Panning Photography is not a particularly easy skill to acquire, but practice will help you improve and perfect it.

Create a plan, when, and where you can shoot.

Shoot a lot of pictures. It can take a lot of shots to get one really satisfying result. Start practicing in a place where you can do a lot of repetitions, like a bicycle race. Where they’ll go around the track for an hour, and that’s a lot of time to practice and perfect your technique. 

It’s also a good idea to review your images. It will help you to review what works and what doesn’t. 


Panning Photography is not about movement, it is the movement itself, and that’s what makes it challenging.

Now you’ve discovered, there are several distinct steps that help you get the right camera settings. You’ll know that you’ve got the hang of it when you’re able to get a sharper image of the subject while the background has an appropriate blur. 

All you have to do is keep practicing this technique until you master the art of Panning photography. Most things involved in Panning are a case of whatever works for you, and the more you work at it, the more you’ll discover what that is.

So don’t worry if your starting images are not very good. You never know when the opportunity will arise for a great Panning shot. 

If you are new to photography, master it by attending various live online workshops regularly by us on our Events Website. Also, head to our Blog for more such tips and tricks about photography. You can subscribe to our digital magazine through Magzter or Issuu to delve into more organized and well-furnished photography content. And if you think you have learned a lot and you want to give it a check, then, proceed to our Contests content, participate there and win astounding prizes.

About the Author:

Sourabh Tyagi is an Engineering student and a content writer who loves to write about and on photography. He is a writer by day and a reader by night. His main focus is to write informative articles that stand on SEO needs. Recently he has decided to follow his passion while still following his career path.

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