Panning photography is one of the best ways to demonstrate action in a photograph. You can make a slow moving object look as if it was traveling very fast, or just add a slight amount of movement to even ordinary subjects. For instance, I was hired as a photographer for a birthday party and after about 1 hour I was growing tired of the same subjects again and again. So I began panning with a couple of the guests and the slight movement of a hand or even the entire person really woke up the image.
In the sample image I have here, Ronnie Goodwin was riding his brand new Kawasaki KX80 motorcycle and we didn’t want any damage to the motorcycle for the photographs, so I had him ride past at about 5mph and the shot looks as if he is passing me at well above 30mph. Panning isn’t difficult but does take some trial and error. I generally shoot in Manual Mode for this type of photography. I slow the shutter down to accommodate the speed of the action. Panning requires some practice and the speed is determined by the speed of the subject. Panning with a walking person the speed must be slowed quite a bit as it will take the person much longer to move thru the scene than a speeding motocross racer. Where as a race car of fast moving plane will require a much faster shutter speed.
Setting your aperture is not as important as the shutter speed in this type of photography, but you must be aware of the background or it will take away from your subject. I try to keep some detail so it shows motion, but you don’t want to blend the subject into the background. So try to keep your subject with a contrast to the background, if the subject is wearing yellow, try to keep the background darker so the background is not competing with the subject.
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