Panning ski

Panning tips for action shots

Sometimes the subject in action photos can appear frozen, lacking the drama and speed that was there at the time. One simple technique to bring back the excitement is 'panning'. And the good news is that panning can improve your photos with any camera.

Watch Adam Pretty capturing action on the ski slopes:

Panning uses slower shutter speeds combined with a sweeping motion of the camera that follows at the same speed as your subject. A successfully panned shot will show your subject off sharply whilst its background is blurred.

1. Set the Mode dial on your camera to Shutter priority mode (Tv). This will let you control the shutter speed

2. Select a slow shutter speed – start with 1/60s. Then experiment; try 1/30s or slower for more blur, 1/125s for less. It can also depend on your subject; a racing car will probably need a faster shutter speed than a cyclist

3. Set the Shooting mode to Continuous. As well as having a better chance of capturing the important moment, you will also minimise camera shake from pressing the Shutter button

4. Track your subject – but don't just do this when you are actually shooting. Follow them before, during and after in a smooth motion

5. Keep your camera and yourself as stable as possible – minimising vertical and tilt motions. You may well find this easier to do using the viewfinder (if your camera has one) than the LCD screen

6. Think about the composition, don’t just have the subject in the centre of the frame. When you track your subject, keep them in the same place in your viewfinder/screen as you shoot

7. Your background should be a blur, so individual bits of it will be less important in your photo. But the overall colours will form an important part of your photo as they will be the frame for your subject

8. Slow the shutter even more if you are shooting at night – then the blurred background lights can add a real drama to your images. Watch how Adam Pretty uses a slower shutter speed to add background blur:

9. Panning takes practice, so don’t worry if your first images are not very good. Learn by taking lots of photos and working out why some work better than others. Is it the wrong shutter speed, or is the subject blurred vertically, for instance. Then apply what you have learned to your next set of photos

Risky multitasking
Ann Luttinger

panning motorbike

This panning shot is different because there is no blurred background at all, but this highlights the drama of the shot as the stunt rider adjusts his goggles.

Mach 3 time
John Madden

panning jet

Airshows are a great place to practice panning. Get yourself in the right position and every few minutes you get another try. A faster shutter speed and, as the photographer says, a little luck deliver an impressive shot.

Now is a great time to perfect your panning skills, either out on the slopes or in the city. Then upload your photos to our Gallery