Panning photographers should make sure to equip themselves with suitable lenses. “It can take a while to develop the skill to be able to get something in frame with a long lens and follow it,” Long says. “But there are tools that can help you do this. If you're using a zoom lens, start wider. If the lens is stabilized and has optical mechanisms inside it that are designed to reduce shake and vibration, that can help when working with long lenses. And some lenses have stabilizers that are meant to work only on panning.”
Using panning shots for successful action photography.
Cameras are generally engineered and programmed with still photography — rather than action photography — in mind. To get that specific look of dynamism, a photographer has to “trick” their equipment.
“You’re going to end up fighting your camera,” Carlson says of the panning technique. “Your camera wants to shoot everything in focus and in perfect light. That’s what it’s been designed to do. You have to take steps to override that.”
A good panning shot needs a slow shutter speed — about 1/30 to 1/80 of a second. While that’s not a lot of time in human terms, it makes a great difference for the equipment. This exposes the sensor to light longer. It also gives a moving camera time to capture motion.
“Having the shutter open longer is key to getting a nice motion blur.”
For a good panning shot, the camera should match speed with the subject and move as they do. Having the shutter open longer is key to getting a nice motion blur. Carlson also recommends using autofocus. Subjects, especially in sports, often move erratically or unpredictably. Using autofocus allows a photographer to catch subjects as they go by and, ideally, the subjects will be sharply defined against what looks to be a moving background.