The art of panning

Forums Critique Requests The art of panning

This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 5 years, 6 months ago.

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    Pete Robinson

    I went down to Oulton Park last Saturday morning for a couple of hours to see the ‘touring cars’. My intention was to capture a sharp car with a blurred background by panning the car. I havent done this for some time but found it more difficult than I expected. Getting the right balance depends on several factors including the speed of the car, it’s distance from the camera, the focal length used, the shutter speed used and of course a good panning technique. if you use to fast a shutter speed the background will be too sharp. If it’s to slow the car will be blurred. Different cars go at different speeds so it makes it more complicated so getting the right balance is a bit of a challenge.

    The technique I finally decided to use was to shoot manually because it was a constantly sunny day so the light wasn’t changing. There were some black cars and some white so if I’d used a semi auto exposure setting I would have got the wrong exposure. To blur the background I choose to use a shutter speed of around 1/100th second.  The photo below is an example of one that didnt quite work. It was exposed at 1/100 sec @ f9 using ISO100. the lens was set to 105mm. I try to keep the centre of the view finder on the driver. In this shot it’s resulted in the front and rear of the car going blurred while the drivers door is fairly sharp. So to get the car sharper I would have to have used a faster shutter speed, but this would have reduced the background blur. I found the more successful picture were the ones where the centre of the viewfinder was kept on the front of the car which kept it sharp and the rest of the car went progressively blurred. I liked this effect best.

    Does anyone have any advise on panning?




    Really not done much ever Peter–little bit on aircraft taking off. Could not offer you much advice Peter–being one of lifes photo perfectionists. Just a point to offer as I remember a judge discussing this-The wheels are going to be spinning –and it would look odd if they are spinning and the car is frozen sharp. If I had attempted thid I think I would be at 6.3   to further defuse the background. I would be happy as a result and would be tempted to see what it look like  with the fencing level bringing the car front down–a bit more dramatic?? Nice one anyway Peter.



    I haven’t done very much of this but I remember the first advice I heard was to follow the vehicle for some distance, during which you release the shutter at your pre-focused spot. It is interesting to look at the parts if the vehicle and see how they have moved during the shutter opening time – a slow speed of course showing this up.

    There is a well known old shot (by Lartigue?) where the wheel of a passing racing car looks like a distorted ellipse. It is due to the focal plane shutter – the wheel moves on while the slot in the shutter travels and the top of the wheel is not shown as in line with the bottom.


    Pete Robinson

    I see want you mean Ken. I’ll have to take a box to stand on next time”

    Thanks for the good advise from two experienced heads. I used to prefocus manually in the old days, but now I rely on the auto focus tracking system which works pretty well. It is good advise to pick up the car early and follow it after making the exposure to keep the pan as smooth as possible. I think by using a shutter speed under the maximum flash sync speed will mean the shutter is fully open during the exposure.  I think what’s happening is that the centre of the viewfinder is traveling at the same speed as part of the car it’s on while the ends of the car of traveling at a different speed than the camera. Or something like that! It’s event more complicated when you’re panning runners as they move vertically as well as horizontally. Now there’s a challenge.  Thanks guys.



    Oh. Peter —and that’s before I buy you that pint. No my friend its all to do with the ergonomics of pie ard Well something like that—whers Delores??? square divided by the rule of thumb.! Best way to practice panning Peter is my cooks running to the tune Ernie–he drove the fastest milk round in the west!!!!!!!!

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