Show Motion Blur in Your Photos with Panning

Panning is a technique you can use to show motion blur in your photos. When you use panning, a moving subject appears mostly crisp and clear and the background is blurred. Some of the subject will be blurred as well.

To pan with your DSLR:

  1. Set a slow shutter speed. Use Shutter priority mode to set the shutter speed to 1/30 sec.  You can raise the shutter speed or lower it more for different blurs. I have found that 1/30 sec works best for me.
  2. Take multiple continuous photos. For the Drive mode, select Continuous or burst mode to take multiple photos. With burst mode, the camera takes a series of photos as you hold the shutter button down.
  3. Set the Focus mode to Continuous to track the subject as it moves.
  4. For best results, hold the camera parallel to the moving subject.
  5. Press the shutter button once to focus on the subject as it enters the frame. Then, moving smoothly with the subject across the frame, press and hold the shutter button to take several continuous images. Continue to move the camera after you have released the shutter button for a smooth background.

The following table shows the settings you can use on your Canon or Nikon DSLR:

Canon Nikon
Shutter priority mode Tv S
Drive mode  Continuous shooting Continuous
Focus mode AI Servo Continuous/Af-C

Panning takes practice and patience. Don’t be surprised if you have only one or two “keepers” from a multiple photo session. Subjects that are moving at a moderate pace are great for practice, such as a carousel or a slow-moving vehicle in a parade. Then move on to planes, trains and automobiles!