Photography News | Issue 49 | photographynews.co.uk Technique 47 Camera School Here we lift the lid on all things camera related, showing how to get better results from your CSC or DSLR, and providing all the info you don’t find in the manual. So, stick with us and you’ll soon be wielding your camera like a pro. This month, why you need to try panning shots – and how to improve results…
Words & pictures by Kingsley Singleton
When you’re starting out, there are several techniques that mark out your progression into creative photography, and one of them is mastering a panning shot. A panning shot can be achieved by accident, but knowing how to do it on purpose is something different. Panning shots are grouped within a creative sphere of photography called intentional camera movement (ICM), and they involve setting the correct exposure, and moving the camera in the right way. What is a panning shot? Apanningshotisonethathasamotion-blurred background and a sharp subject. The shutter speed needs to be slow enough to produce motion blur as the camera is moved, but the subject must be kept sharp by following its movement through the exposure. The subject of your panning shot doesn’t need to be kept completelysharp, andshots can lookgreatwith just a small, important part clearly focused, like the rider on a horse or the headlights of a car. Like any technique, panning shots takepractise and you also need to compose correctly and set the right shutter speed for the subject, more on which below. How to set up a panning shot The first thing you’ll need is a moving subject. The most accessible things to use are cars and bikes, and they’re also the easiest to produce sharp shots of as they move in a predictable direction and speed. Other vehicles such as aircraft, trains and boats can work, too. You can also shoot running animals, though due to their organic motion they’re more difficult to keep sharp; there’s movement across several planes, only one of which can be kept sharp at a time, no matter how good your technique. Which shooting mode? Although panning is an effect that relies on picking the right shutter speed, you can shoot in aperture- or shutter-priority mode. It’s a toss up: the advantage of shooting in aperture- priority (A or Av) is that you’ll be more likely to get an exposure neither too bright nor too dim (as there aremore available shutter speeds than apertures, it’s easier for the camera to match the shutter to an aperture than vice versa). The advantage of using shutter-priority (S or Tv) is that you’ll be able to set the shutter speed more accurately to suit the subject.
How to improve your chances Switch to continuous drive mode and set AF to continuous. Point your feet in the direction the subject is moving and then turn back towards it, ready to shoot. As it approaches, start turning with it and focus. When it’s time to shoot, fire off a series of shots, but keep turning even after the last shot to keep the pan smooth. Something else that’ll help keep the subject sharp is shooting at the point their movement is aligned with the focal plane of the camera – that’s usually when the subject is passing your position. Overall, remember that panning is a slightly random effect and practise always makes perfect. Above A smooth turn, following the movement of the subject is vital for good panning results. Left The slower the shutter speed, the easier it is to blur the background, but it’s harder to keep the subject sharp.
What shutter speed for panning? The shutter speed is dependent on the speed of the subject and how close it is to you. It needs to be slowenough to pick up themotion of your pan, but not so slow that you can’t keep the subject sharp. The slower the speed the more motion blur you’ll get, but the faster you turn the camera themoremotion blur you’ll get, too. A runnermight require 1/15 or 1/30sec, while a racing car could see 1/125sec used successfully. The speed required also depends on the focal length you’re using. If you’re zoomed in a long way, you’ll need to turn the camera less far than you would when framing wider at the same shutter speed.
Framing and focus Get yourself in a position where the subject will pass close enough for you to frame them at a decent size, and without obstructions such as trees, fences or people. In terms of focal length, what you choose is important: a very wide setting such as 18mm will show more distortion so the motion-blurred panmay have a curved look; with long focal lengths such as 100mmormore, it can bemore difficult to keep the subject’s position constant in the frame. For those reasons, focal lengths between 35mm and 70mm can work best, though you should feel free to experiment; trial and error is very much part of panning technique.
NEXTMONTH Embrace the long evenings and join us for a two-part night special. To start, we show you how to tackle light trails
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