How to Use a Slow Shutter Speed in Panning
Using a longer shutter speed is a great way to get creative. With a slow shutter speed
you can blur either your subject or the background. Blurring your subject is called 'motion
blur' and will be covered in another article. Here we are going to look at panning
where the background is blurred but the subject remains in sharp focus.
A slow shutter speed is required for panning. This is not a difficult technique but
does require a little practice to get the hang of it. The shutter speed you choose
needs to be a bit slower than normal. To give you an idea, the photographs on this page
have shutter speeds of 1/40, 1/15, 1/15 and 1/25 second.
A Chicken Running
(Photo by Joaquim Alves Gaspar):
Nikon D80, 1/40 sec, f/6.3, ISO 100, focal length 82 mm
Normally you would need a tripod to take shots at these speeds but when panning the camera
is often hand held so try to keep your hand as steady as possible as you try to match
the speed of your moving subject.
Honda Activa Family Outing
(Photo by Judith):
1/25 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100, focal length 6.2 mm
Your goal is to get your subject in as sharp a focus as possible with a nicely blurred
background. Usually subjects are forms of fast moving transport such as cars, bicycles and
so on but animals can be a good subject too. You will get the best results if your
subject is moving straight across your view on a plane parallel with that of the camera and
preferably in a line that allows you to predict which part of the frame they are running
Champaign Police Bike - Shot During the Illinois Marathon in Urbana
(Photo by Daniel Schwen):
Canon EOS 5D, 1/15 sec, f/18, ISO 100, focal length 105 mm
Although a slow shutter speed is required, don't make it too slow or your main subject
may wind up being blur too! Once you've practiced panning for a while you might like to
try the slightly different technique of using the flash to freeze the motion of the subject. A
speed of around 1/15 second is a good place to start.
Taxi Outside Ueno Station
(Photo by Parag.naik):
Nikon D60, 1/10 sec, f/13, ISO 100, focal length 55 mm
There are lots of possibilities to practise panning. If you have children take them to
the park and try panning while they are on the swings or roundabout. Or have someone
throw a ball down the garden for your dog and pan him as he whizzes past. If you are
a passenger in a car, an easy way to start panning is by photographing the driver as
the trees and houses move past in the background.
Truck with Background Blur
(Photo by Fir002):
Canon 20D, Tamron SP AF28-75mm, f/2.8
Shutter speed is an integral part of exposure. Learn to use it creatively, and you
unlock the magic that transforms an ordinary subject into a work of art. From the blazing
1/8000 second that captures each feather in a hummingbird's wing to the lazy half-second
that turns a fireworks display into a color-rich patchwork, shutter speed allows you to
In Creative Shutter Speed: Master the Art of Motion Capture.
Derek Doeffinger, a former writer/photographer for Kodak, teaches you how to:
- Unleash the power of shutter speed from 1/8000 second to 8 hours
- Learn creative techniques to transform your photos
- Discover how to achieve different effects with various aperture/shutter speed combinations
- Determine the effect of weather and lighting conditions
- Use filters, lenses, tripods, and other tools to manipulate shutter speed
- Explore stop-action and creative blur techniques
- See how to reinforce your creative vision using Photoshop®
- View what you can achieve in stunning full-color examples
A highly recommended book with enough creative ideas to keep you going for a long while!
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