How do photograph subjects in motion? Best Instruction

You can stop time with a camera. We’ve all seen pictures of footballers bouncing in the air or cars speeding away. Fast shutter speeds allow you to catch the moment and capture such subjects clearly. In this article, you will learn more about a technique that allows you to do this, the panning technique. In such cases, the photographer’s job is to get the shot so that the viewer can see this rapid movement in the image. That’s what panning is for.

In photos taken using the panning technique, the moving object appears more or less clear. the sensation of fast movement is created by the background, which is not just blurred, but blurred horizontally. Blurred is anything that is not moving at the same speed and direction as the subject. 

Such a photo is not difficult to take at all. Read on to the end of this post and you’ll have all the knowledge you necessary to take these types of photos. Remember that if you will be using the camera you will need hand grip camera straps. You can find out all about them on Skylum’s blog. 

1. Shutter speed and movement

When shooting fast movement, fast shutter speeds are usually used (especially when not using a tripod). That way the clarity of the moving subject is guaranteed. When panning, on the other hand, relatively slow shutter speeds are used, something in the range of 1/60th to 1/8th of a second (depending on how fast the subject is moving). With such slow shutter speeds, you have to move the camera in such a way that the moving object always remains in the frame. The moving object must not move with respect to the frame. Everything else in relation to the camera must move and thus create a fast-motion effect. 

Camera settings

Shoot in manual mode. The slower the shutter speed, the harder it is to get a good panning action. That’s why set the shutter speed to 1/30 or slower first. You can set the aperture to any value you like, as the background would still be blurry. Adjust the aperture value to the light so as to get a good exposure of the frame (read about how to adjust the aperture here). ISO sensitivity, as usual, should be set to the lowest value.

You can focus in two ways:

  • The easiest way is to use manual focus. Locate the spot you want to photograph with the camera, focus on it and switch the lens to manual focus. This keeps the lens focused on the chosen spot throughout the picture and prevents you from having to focus again.
  • Good cameras have continuous autofocus. This is the right mode for panning techniques because it keeps the lens in focus on the moving subject as long as you keep the shutter button pressed halfway.

You can try taking one photo at a time or set the camera to continuous shooting.

2. Capturing 

Choose a location so that the subject moves with you in parallel. It’s a good idea to practice on the side of the road, for example, there are quite a few moving objects you can take pictures of.

  • Keep an eye out for what is left in the background of the photos you take. A light sky may appear over-lit when you take your pictures at slow shutter speeds, and outlined objects in the background may distract from the main subject.
  • Get down on one knee and hold the camera firmly in your hands.
  • Start following the moving subject from afar. Remember that the closer the object is, the faster you should move the camera.
  • When the object is at the desired distance, smoothly press the shutter button and at the same time move the camera with the lens. Only when you manage to move the camera as fast and in the same direction as the subject will it come out clear.
  • Don’t stop moving the camera halfway.
  • Don’t give up if the photo doesn’t come out the first time. Keep practicing.

You should notice that in photos taken using the panning technique the moving subject will not always come out perfectly sharp. A little blurring is not a problem. If you are trying this technique for the first time, be patient.

3. How to take pictures in motion: some general tips

There’s a great artistic trick that, when applied correctly, can make for an interesting shot. It’s called wiring. It creates the effect that the background behind the subject, rather than the main subject, appears to be moving in the image. The trick is simple, just follow the movement of the subject by smoothly rotating the camera as you shoot.

The birds in flight is a great way to practice taking pictures in motion. By the way, you can focus beforehand on the area your subject is aiming at.

Autofocus is an amazingly handy thing for taking pictures of moving objects. We recommend activating the focus first by not pressing the shutter button all the way down. And then lower the shutter fully at a convenient moment.

Closing thoughts

Now you know all the secrets of how to take pictures of motioning objects. So what are you waiting for? Grab your camera and get started! And before you do, read the article on hand grip camera straps on Skylum’s blog so that your equipment is always safe!

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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