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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Guide to Panning in Photography- Tips to Mastering This Important Art

Photo Tip World Definition- Panning = a useful technique where a photographer keeps a fast moving object in focus while allowing the background to blur. This is accomplished by moving the camera (or panning it) at the same speed and same direction as the subject.

The blurry background and focus on the jaguar helps capture the energy of the animal

Panning is a technique that adds a new layer of dynamic energy and realism to your images. Sometimes action photographs tend to "kill" the energy of their photos by completely freezing the frame. Panning moves away from a standard approach and creates an emotional feeling about the subject. Panning results in interesting imagery that can border on abstract and although it can create rewarding effects it’s a technique that is hard to perfect. Here are some tips to mastering this technique and improving your action photography. Starting with a quick how-to:
1. When possible, set-up in a location that provides an open and unobstructed view of your potential subject.
2. Before the subject approaches, pre-focus your lens on the location and direction you predict your subject will take. Use manual if you're familiar and comfortable with the mode.
3. Set a longer exposure than usual, making sure that ISO and aperture compensates for any potential overexposure.
4. As the subject gets closer to your frame, carefully move the camera at the same speed of the subject as you click the shutter. Make sure to do this while tracking the object's direction and movement.  Avoid shaking and try to move as smoothly as possible. 
5. Continue to pan, even a little after the exposure finishes to ensure that your subject ends up crisp and sharp.

Secrets to effective panning shots: 
1. Backdrops can be crucial. Simplistic, monochromatic colors are easiest to work with, but sometimes the more complicated backgrounds can tell a story all their own.
2. Since the goal is to capture a subject in focus, look for movements that are easily tracked. Generally speaking, the straighter the subject moves, the easier it will be to capture the object perfectly. Also, avoid very fast objects, longer exposures, etc. because they make your end goal harder to achieve.
3. Although the common goal that photographers have when they "pan" is to capture an object in sharp focus, many eye popping and abstract photos are results of trial and error.  Don't click delete too fast.
4.  It's unrealistic to expect your subjects to be perfectly sharp.   
5. Practice, practice, practice. Keep trying until you get it right.  
6. If you're having difficulty keeping the subject sharp, use a tripod with a swiveling head, so to minimize shake.
7. Experiment with flash if you're close enough to the subject.

Images are copyright Chase Guttman and Peter Guttman, respectively.

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Chase Guttman is a talented and passionate, award-winning photographer having shot everything from landscapes to wildlife to portraits and events all around the world. Chase Guttman is also an affordable NYC assignment photographer, ready to fulfill your photographic wishes with his distinct style and attention to detail. He also runs this popular photography tips and guide blog, with weekly insights into photography that helps everyone from amateurs to pros better their photographic skill. Visit us at our website:

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