Expressing Motion with Still Photography

In an effort to continue creating more interesting and engaging still photographs, I recently practiced panning.  Panning is a technique that still photographers use to evoke the feeling of motion in a non-moving image.  When done right it’s amazing.  When done wrong, it’s just a blurry photograph.

Road Cyclist in Colorado

The images in this post are all from my panning practice session and I wanted to share what I learned.

Panning Photography: 10 Things I Learned

  1. My panning photographs are blurry
  2. It’s harder than it looks but with practice it will get easier
  3. Practice following subjects through your viewfinder to match their speed
  4. The “best” images from the session were the ones where the subject was directly in front of the camera
  5. You need to play with your shutter speed depending on how fast your subject is moving i.e. – cars, bikes, runners
  6. You can’t be too close to your subject
  7. Longer lenses work better
  8. Keep an open mind i.e. – don’t get too frustrated
  9. I’m not quite there yet so I need to keep at it
  10. Don’t point your camera at police cars

Panning Practice - Jeep Liberty

Adorama TV has a great video tutorial if you’re interested in learning more about this still photography technique.

Highway 24 - Colorado

I was surprised by the photos where the subject was either moving toward me or away from me.  The effect was similar to what you see with a tilt and shift lens creating a miniature feel.

Motorcycle - Colorado

Obviously these images aren’t good (read – still blurry), but they’re getting there.  The important lesson I took from this practice session is that any steps I take toward improving the images I create are worthwhile if the end result are more interesting photographs.

Panning Practice

So, I’ll keep practicing.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear/see anyone else’s experience with panning and if they have any constructive input.  Thanks in advance!