The term “pan” or “panning shot” comes from the movie world. A shot where the camera rotates from left to right or vice versa is a panning shot. In still images, a panning shot is a single still photograph that is made while rotating the camera in this same panning motion. The resulting image, depending on shutter speed, will show motion in any subject matter that is not moving in the same direction and speed as the camera.
Making a panning shot is fun but can also be a bit frustrating due to the experimentation needed to get the right shutter speed for the moving subject. One important thing to consider is that every subject moves at different speeds which means we need always to be adjusting shutter speed when we make a panning shot, also called a panning photo. Despite the shutter speed adjustments, panning shots can make fascinating final images.
A panning shot is created by moving or panning, the camera while shooting. Usually, the camera moves along with the moving subject. Subjects that move perpendicular to the camera offer the best ability to pan. Note, subjects moving at an angle to the camera usually, do not display motion as well as perpendicular moving subjects. Moving the camera, either handheld or on a tripod, in a smooth fluid motion with the moving subject and gently firing the shutter release is required for making a panning photo. The intended effect is to have the camera blur any elements that are not moving with the camera and make the subject, which is moving with the camera, appear sharper.
Panning photography is an excellent way to illustrate motion, speed, and action. Just keep in mind the different shutter speeds needed. A bicyclist on a city street might look great at 1/150 of a second shutter speed, but a race car on a track might look right panning at 1/250 of a second.
Have fun and experiment with this and let me know what you create. Leave me a comment below.
Also, if you’d like to learn more about setting manual exposure or shutter priority settings, check out this Guide I created.
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