What is panning
Panning is a photography technique to take moving subject with blurred background feed the photo more speed. It sometime considered to be a difficult technique, but it is really fun once you succeed it.
With panning. Blurred background make the birds look like they are flying very fast. [ Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM, Shutter speed: 1/160sec、Aperture:f/5、Focal Length: 150mm、ISO speed: 100、Location: Kakegawa Kachoen, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan ]
Without Panning。The background is not blurred and it make the birds stopped. [ Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM, Shutter speed: 1/640sec, Aperture:f/4, Focal Length: 116mm, ISO Speed: 100, Location: Kakegawa Kachoen, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan ]
Good points on panning
One of the good point of the panning is the effect of the speed. You can feed speed to viecles like cars, air planes, trains. And also animals or birds.
Example of the speed generated by the panning. The bus was not running too fast, but panning makes the bus look like running faster. [ Camera: Nikon D4, Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, Shutter speed: 1/3sec, Focal length: 70mm, Aperture:f/2.8, ISO Speed: 100, Location: Yurakucho, Tokyo, Japan. ]
Taking panning shots is fun! It is sort of difficult, and you'd be really happy once you succeed it.
Panning is usable even in night
When you take a photo of moving subject, you usually have to increase shutter speed to avoid blur. It is possible in a day light condition, but it's not always possible in low light condition like night. If you learn panning you can take photos of moving subject even in low light situation.
This photo was taken slow shutter speed to use panning. So that made it possible to take this photo at ISO speed 100. [ Camera: Nikon D4, Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G, Shutter speed: 1/3sec、Aperture: f/2.8, ISO Speed: 100, Location: A street near Sakuradamon Station, Tokyo, Japan ]
Bad point of panning
Lower success rate
It usually rate for experienced photographer to make mistake. But with panning, any photographer can take blurred photos even if he or she is a experienced photographer. If you would like to take photo a moment you'd never see again, it is not good idea to use panning.
Limited chance to use
The subject must be moving to use panning. And the moving direction must be horizontal or maybe vertical. You can't use panning with the moving subject coming to the camera.
Nice equipments for panning
You could take panning shots any kind of camera, but you should use better one for better chance and results. Here is the equipments I recommend.
A camera with shutter speed priority mode [Almost must]
In shutter speed priority mode, you can decide how fast the shutter speed is. Slow shutter speed is required to take panning shots and shutter speed priority mode is almost must. Some of compact camera doesn't have the the feature, but most of mirror less cameras and DSLRs have it.
A camera with continuous autofocus [Very important]
There are two kind of autofocus(AF), one is single AF(some maker call this one shot AF) and another one is continuous AF(some maker call this AI Servo). In single AF mode, the camera stops autofocusing once it focuses to the subject. And in continuous Af mode, camera always trying to focus on the subject. When it comes to panning, you always should use continuous AF, because the subject is moving and distance between the camera and the subject is always changing. With continuous AF, you never have to care about focusing, and you can concentrate on chasing the subject accurately.
A camera with viewfinder [Very important]
If you'd use a camera without viewfinder, you have to watch LCD screen on camera's back, and it actually make it difficult to take a panning shot. Using viewfinder make the camera and lens stable and also make it easier to chase the moving subject. With viewfinder, you can concentrate on chasing on the moving subject.
There are two kind of viewfinder one is optical viewfinder(OVF) and another one is electric viewfinder(EVF). Both of them has advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes to panning, OVF is better because there is a little time lag on EVF. Still so, EVF is much better than a camera without any viewfinder.
A camera with has a fast frame rate in burst mode[If it is possible]
Panning is not easy to success. So it is good idea to take a lot of panning shots and choose the best one later. Suppose you have only 20% of success rate and take 10 panning shots, then the probability of success(success at least one shot) would be 89%. So it is nice to have a camera with a fast frame rate in burst mode. There is a important node on the frame rate; if you would like to take panning shots of the subject(s) that move slowly then you the frame rate is not important. Because you have to slow the shutter speed down, and slowing the shutter speed down make the camera slower frame rate. For instance, if you setup the shutter speed 1/5 sec, any camera can't take more than 5 shots per second. And the frame rate is important if you'd like to try fast moving subject. If you setup the shutter speed 1/50 sec or so, you can enjoy fast frame rate if you have such a camera.
Cameras I recommend
Unfortunately, the cameras that satisfies all of the things I've wrote tend to be very expensive, especially when it comes to fast frame rate. So I list some variety of cameras. Some is not very expensive but lacks some features, and some is expensive but satisfies all of the things I mentioned. The list has a lot of Nikon/Canon camera, but it doesn't mean cameras from other makers are not good. It does mean that I'm sure with the cameras are good for panning because I'm using Nikon/Canon, and I can't recommend a camera that I have no idea what is good or not. So I think there are great cameras that are not listed here.
Nikon D5200 [Recommended/Not so expensive]
This is an entry level DSLR from Nikon and satisfies all of the things I've mentioned! The frame rate in burst mode is 5 frames per second; acceptable frame rate.(Nikon says that you have to setup shutter speed 1/250 sec or faster to achieve 5 frames per second, so it is slower than 5 if you are trying to panning.) There are some disadvantage if you compare to the high-end DSLRs; viewfinder is smaller and AF on low-light situation is not very good. Before I purchase this camera, I thought I won't be able to take panning with this, but it turns out it is a nice camera for panning and I liked it.
Nikon D300S [Highly Recommended/Kind of expensive]
This camera is used to be a Nikon's flagship camera of DX format(APS-C sized sensor). Unfortunately this model is discontinued now and you have to find and purchase used one. (At least in Japan, and I'm not sure in foreign countries.) I actually don't have this camera but it is good for panning; it has larger viewfinder and 7 frame per second in it's burst mode.
Nikon D4 [Highly Recommended/Very expensive]
This camera is a flagship model and made for professional photographer. It has huge viewfinder and it has 11 frames per second! (But there are some limitations on 11 frame per second) This one is perfect on panning and I love take panning shots with this camera. Only one disadvantage of this camera is price; it is really expensive!
Canon EOS 7D [Highly recommended/Kind of expensive]
EOS 7D is Canon's flagship model of APS-C sized camera. It has 100% coverage of viewfinder and 100% of viewfinder magnification(Which means the viewfinder is really large compared to other APS-C sized cameras, but full-frame cameras). This is only my personal thought, but I feel EOS 7D is better on autofocusing to a light of a car at night, compared to an entry model of Nikon. This model have been sold more than 3 years, and the image quality of the image sensor is getting out of date a little. Still so, this camera is really good at panning shots.
Zoom lens [If it is possible]
In panning, you usually don't need fast lens, and also don't need a lens with perfect optical performance, because even if you succeed on the panning, the moving subject usually blurred a little. So zoom lenses are better on panning.(Though I personally prefer prime lenses and I often use them even if it is a panning shot purpose).
Neutral Density Filter [Convenient if you have one]
Neutral Density filter loses the amount of lights. Usually it is better to use this if you take panning shots in sunny day, but it really depends on the shutter speed; it might result in better without a neutral density filter. There are a lot of neutral density filter but it usually okay with ND8(witch make the amount of light 1/8).
Monopod [Convenient if you have one]
When you take panning shots with a super telephoto lens, it stabilizes the camera and lens. But it doesn't so important if you are working on a standard lens or a wide angle lens.
An example of panning with 400mm lens + 1.4x teleconverter(900mm in 35mm equivalent). The shutter speed is 1/10 sec. I guess it was impossible to capture this without monopod. [ Camera:Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 400mm F5.6L USM + Canon Extender EF 1.4xIII, Shutter Speed:1/10 sec, Aperture:f/29, ISO Speed:100 ]
Setting of your camera
Shutter speed priority
First off setup your camera shutter speed priority mode. Shutter speed should be around from 1/20 sec to 1/100 sec depending on the speed of the subject. You try one and if you feel you want more speed then decrease the shutter speed. If you can't success well, you increase shutter speed for more success rate.
It really depends on the maker to setup your camera to continuous AF. So please refer to the manual of your camera.
Turn of the image stabiliser
The image stabilizer should be turned on if you are not taking panning shot with hand held, but it should be turned off when it comes to panning. Otherwise you can't do panning very well.
Setup the position of AF point
It is recommended to setup the position of AF point in advance, so that you can focus on panning. Refer the manual of the camera for detail instructions.
Confirm F number
Before you take panning shots, you should hold your camera and point where you want to take a pic. And your camera will figure out appropriate F number. If you try to do panning too slow shutter speed in day light situation, it may result in too bright even in the maximum F number, where maximum F number is the darkest setting that your camera lens can reduce the light that come from the lens. In that case, you need use ND filter that reduces the light coming from the lens.
In general you can get the sharpest image between f/5.6 and f/8 and it is a good idea to use ND filter so that appropriate F number become around f/5.6 or f/8. And you will get less sharp image in larger f number, say f/16. But in panning it is also a good idea to increase F number to focus on everywhere - the subject and background for more speed.
How to take panning shots
Here is the basic way to take panning shots which has more success rate. The method here is not the only solution for panning and it may be interesting to figure out your own method if you are familiar with this method.
1.Stand with feet shoulder width apart
stand with feet shoulder width apart and make your body stable. It is very important because it is slow shutter which is easy to make things blurred.
2.Hold your camera
View the viewfinder and hold the camera. Keep the upper arms to your body and hold the camera right front of your face to make it stable.
3.Chasing the moving subject
Aim the moving subject with the AF point. Twist your body with your camera in appropriate speed so that AF point is always on the moving subject. Then make the AF working（usually AF works while you press the shutter button half-pressed）the tips on this step are
3.1 When you twist your body you really need to concentrate the speed of twist so that AF point is always on the specific point of the moving subject, say eyes if the moving subject is an animal, an headlight if the moving subject is a car, rather than concentrate on entire moving subject.
3.2 You need to twist your body at your waist rather than your neck for more stable move.
4.Push the shutter button
Press the shutter button when you feel the right timing. The timing is important though, you should avoid pressing the button too hard, it would make the camera shaky and it can result a blurred pic.
Setting of the camera and how them effect the results
When you increase shutter speed the success rate also increases, but you will lose the speed obtained by the panning. And when you decrease shutter speed, the success rate also decreases, but once you succeed it, the you will gain more speed obtained by the panning.
Lens and focus length
You will more likely to success more when you use wider angle lenses. When you use wide angle lens, the tiny camera shake doesn't affect much the result. And when you use telephoto lens tiny camera shake affect much the result. And wide angle lens has deeper depth of field and you will obtain more speed.
But if you would like to take too fast moving subject, it maybe impossible to chase the moving subject. In that case it is easier to use a telephoto lens.
Background is one of very important things on panning photography. A pic without good background won't be a nice pic no matter how slow shutter speed you take a pic. You need to choose background with high contrast.
An example of panning with very low contrast background. I tried panning with 1/20 sec shutter speed, but it doesn't affect the result of speed. [ Camera:Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 400mm F5.6L USM, Shutter speed:1/20sec, Aperture:f/32, ISO speed:100, Location：Iruma Air Base ]
An exmaple of panning with a high contrast background. This photo was taken with faster shutter speed, so it usually has less speed, but it turns out faster thanks to the high contrast background. [ Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 400mm F5.6L USM, Shutter speed:1/30Sec Aperture:f/25, ISO speed:100, Location：Iruma Air Base ]
It is good idea to have crosswalk in background for more speed. [ Camera:Nikon D4, Lens:Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G, Shutter speed:1/10sec, Aperture:f/1.8、ISO speed:100, Location:Yurakucho, Tokyo, Japan ]
If you can't find high contrast background, it is good idea to capture more than 2 subjects at once that they are moving opposite directions. [ Camera: Nikon D4, Lens：Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, Shutter speed:1/100sec, Focal length:200mm, Aperture:f/16, ISO speed:100, Location：Iruma Air Base ]
The most important thing for improving your panning is to practice. The underlined things in "How to take panning" are most important part in panning, and you should focus on these things and practice more and more. 3.1 and 3.2 are especially important. You might experience that your CF card or SD card are full of failed photos. But it is what I've experienced too, and I'm sure your panning will get better if you won't give up.
Subjects for panning.
Cars at night are one of easy subject for panning.
Recommended focal length：14mm～35mm (in 35mm equivalent）
[ Camera: Nikon D4, Lenses: AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR, Shutter speed: 1/2sec, Aperture: f/4, Focal length: 16mm, ISO speed: 100, Location：Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan ]
[ Camera: Nikon D4, Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G, Shutter speed: 1sec, Aperture: f/9, ISO speed: 100, Location:Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan ]
Air Show is great event for panning. You should give it a try if you are interested in panning.
Focal length：70mm - 600mm (in 35mm equivalent)
[ Camera: Nikon D4, Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, Shutter speed: 1/20sec, Aper;ture:f/22, Focal length: 70mm, ISO speed: 100, Location: Iruma Air Base ]
Birds in flight are also nice subject for panning. They are much smaller than air planes and they are more difficult to capture than air planes. Still it is fun to photograph them.
Recommended focal length：100mm - 600mm(in 35mm equivalent)
[ Camera: Canon EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 400mm F5.6L USM, Shutter speed: 1/80秒, Aperture:f/13、ISO speed: 100、Location：Yurakucho, Tokyo, Japan ]
Conveyor belt sushi moves on a conveyor belt. So it can be a subject for panning photography LOL
Recommended focal length：28mm - 85mm (in 35mm equivalent)
Difficulty: Difficult in some way
[ Camera: Nikon D5200, Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G, Shutter speed: 1/3sec, Aperture: f/8, ISO speed: 100, Location: A sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Japan ]
Cats are always unpredictable and it is very very difficult to photograph them, but it worth trying, because it always result in very cute.
Recommended focal length：50mm - 100mm (in 35mm equivalent)
[ Camera: Nikon D4, Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G, Shutter speed: 1/30sec, Aperture: f/2, ISO speed: 125, Location: A cat cafe in Shinjuku ]
That's about it for now. Since English is my 2nd language and you might found a sentence that is not easy to understand or doesn't make sense. If you've found one, I'd be very happy if you'd let me know. I'd like to make this article more easy to understand and make it better. Thank you.