Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Panning with different shutter speeds

5 Comments

Brief:

Take a series of exposures of a moving object at various shutter speeds, following the subject by panning so that it is fairly sharp and the background becomes streaked. Note how different shutter speeds affect the image. Then look back at the photos in this and the previous exercise and note which ones are most attractive as a viewer.

Equipment:

Canon EOS 650D with EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM lens.

Method:

I positioned myself at a bend in the road on a busy coastal highway and took several shots of passing cars, bikes and joggers at different shutter speeds.

Results:

I took many more shots than are posted here! It took me a while to get into the swing of the panning action. I’m still not very good at capturing the subject sharp enough, but these are the best pictures to demonstrate the learning points.

A cyclist moving past me and a shutter speed of 1/30 sec produced a reasonably pleasing sense for movement, although the cyclist isn’t very sharp. There is enough difference in the motion blur to give the sense of movement:

1/30 sec

1/30 sec

I took some car shots at 1/40 sec exposures and got a few images where the cars were pretty sharp and the background showed plenty of streaking:

1/40 sec

1/40 sec

1/40 sec

1/40 sec

I moved up to 1/50 sec for the next batch. At this speed I captured a pair of joggers, another cyclist and another car. The cyclist one is the sharpest, and the feeling of movement is accentuated by the cars moving in the opposite direction:

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

Stepping up to 1/60 sec I captured the following shots of cars; I found the black car to give more movement, possibly as it is moving left to right, which is how I think I naturally read a photograph:

1/60 sec

1/60 sec

1/60 sec

1/60 sec

Finally I took some shots at 1/80 sec, but found it didn’t give as much of a sense of movement in the background streaking; the one example I thought showed a sense of motion was this of the Mini, where the jogger walking the dog provides the visual clue to the movement.

1/80 sec

1/80 sec

What I’ve learned:

As mentioned, I didn’t find this an easy technique to master! Once I’d discarded the outtakes, I found images that looked OK at shutter speeds from 1/30 sec to 1/80 sec. The most reliable range was probably 1/50 sec to 1/60 sec. What seemed to make a difference were various factors: how steadily I moved the camera; the speed of the moving object; the distance I was away from the moving object; the focal length.

The one in this set that most pleases me is the cyclist with the oncoming traffic at 1/50 sec – it is the sharpest subject yet it doesn’t look ‘frozen’ as both the background and the wheels clearly demonstrate the movement. Of the others, the joggers at 1/50 and the first cyclist at 1/30 are also appealing; in these cases I think the very slight blur of the subject, accompanied by the stronger blur of the background, gives the best sense of motion.

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5 thoughts on “Exercise – Panning with different shutter speeds

  1. Hey these are good, such a tricky exercise. I’m glad to be moving onto the next one!

  2. These are fantastic. I’m going to be doing the panning when I’ve done the shutter speed exercise today and am a bit nervous to be honest.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s not the easiest exercise, it has to be said. I think there’s a knack to it! I just gave up after the third attempt and posted these ones anyway :-)

      Good luck with it!

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