You might have noticed photographs where subject is pin sharp while the background is hazy giving a feel of motion. Such photographs are known as pan shots. Panning gives the image a dynamic perspective. Panning helps in showing action in still photographs & is often used in sports photography. Though similar to Bokeh but still Panning is way different than Bokeh. Bokeh doesn’t portray motion but panning does.


Panning is difficult to master as at times it requires a bit of luck. Let’s see how to take a pan shot.

# Panning requires you to follow the object. It is recommended to choose a parallel path. The direction doesn’t matter but be sure to stay parallel to the subject. For e.g. on pavement adjacent to a highway. Also you will need a simple background as complex backgrounds tend to mix the subject & the end pan shot won’t look that beautiful.

# Once you have selected a suitable location mount your tripod if you plan to use one (you will need to use one if under low lightning). Panning can be done without a tripod but you will require steady hand & flexible body to take good pan shots. If you use tripod adjust it so that it can be maneuvered easily in a horizontal path.

# Now it’s time to set exposure on your camera. This is the trickiest part of panning photography. To take pan shots you will need to keep down the shutter speed. The shutter speed should be fast as it will freeze the entire scene just like any normal shot. It should not be too slow either to cause a hazy picture.

ISO can be set as per the shutter speed. If you have a good camera which captures noise free images under low light you won’t face any problem. But if you own a typical consumer camera then be prepared to have some noisy images. Again remember not to raise the ISO to a higher level as it will give a static shot.

Aperture can be adjusted in accordance to shutter speed & ISO levels. From what I have noticed Aperture doesn’t plays a much significant role in panning.

Auto-Focus will do a good job but at times it will definitely face difficulty in focusing. At times it won’t even focus properly. To counter this you can use manual focus.

# Once you are ready with the above its time to shoot. As your subject comes under your range, aim the camera & half depress the shutter to lock focus on the subject. Now follow the subject in its path & compile the image. Once satisfied, release the shutter while still following the subject. Remember not to jerk or stop in between as it won’t give you the pan effect.

Panning requires a lot of practice & patience. Most of your early try at panning will bring out a bucketful of hazy or improperly focused shots. But don’t let this deter you as once you get adept at panning you will leave the viewer admiring your beautiful pan shot. Good luck!

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