Panning shots are easy

It’s been some time since I last wrote a blog post. A couple of weeks ago I went to Marrakesh, whilst I was out there I tried to take some panning shots of the Moroccan traffic.


Panning shots are where you take the photo whilst rotating the camera to track a moving object. This should blur out the background of the shot whilst keeping the moving object in focus. The shot is great for giving a sense of movement and dynamism whilst keeping the detail of the moving object.

The key for getting a good panning shot is patience and plenty of subjects. You don’t need a special camera, simply one where you can control the shutter speed. The best way to practise panning is to find a seat set back from a busy road. Depending on the speed of the traffic and the distance away from the camera you will need to choose a shutter speed between 1/5 to 1/50th of a second. There is no simple rule, you will need to experiment with different shutter speeds to get the best outcome.

In bright sunlight, such as in Morocco you might need to use a filter to prevent saturating the camera sensor at such slow shutter speeds. I use a very cheap variable neutral density filter which allows me to get a 1/10th of a second shutter speed with an aperture of f/8 in bright light. If you can’t get hold of a cheap folder you can simply wait for the light levels to go down.

Following a moving target is the hardest part of taking this type of shot. Some cameras will help you by giving you panningĀ  image stabilisation. You need to rotate the camera steadily, to do this you need to start tracking the subject when it is as far away as possible. Make sure you are smoothly tracking it, before pressing the shutter and try not to press the shutter with too much force such that you introduce camera shake. Some photographers use a tripod or monopod to get the smoothest pan however a tripod head with a smooth movement can be quite expensive.

To get the whole of the subject in focus, you need to press the shutter release when it is travelling perpendicular to the camera lens. If the object is moving at an angle to the lens you will likely get some parts in focus and others out of focus. You can see this effect in the photo below.

The reality is that luck plays a huge part even amongst experienced photographers. I took about 100 photos to get the 5 images I’ve posted here. It’s quite likely that 90% of your photos will be blurry but with enough patience you should get some great shots.