Improve Action Photography by Panning

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Action photography is fast, rapid paced, and can be extremely stressful in a working environment. Whether you are getting paid for your action photography job or you enjoy action photography as a hobby, you need to know certain strategies to make you photography better and more advanced.

The majority of action photography has to do with sports or wildlife. Sports such as car racing or track pose a lot of challenges for photographers to capture quality shots of the action, especially if the track event is indoors in a low lighting environment.

Usually, you have to use a really fast shutter to freeze all of the action. Sometimes, however, frozen action can look bland. To improve the interest level of your action photography, use a panning motion to create speed within the photo.

How to Shoot Panning

Panning is actually a very simple concept to grasp and gives you a lot of potential for great, creative action photography shots.

For the best panning shots, keep your shutter speed pretty quick. You may need to take some test shots to get the shutter just right, but I’d recommend starting out at about 1/100 of a second. You may be weary about choosing a shutter speed so low if you’re shooting really fast action, but as long as you follow my steps your photo will look great. Trust me.

Next, take a few practice shots of the movement while panning. Plant your feet shoulder width apart and follow your subject by rotating your torso. Rotating from your torso gives you the most stable movement. If you only rotate your head or your hands, you might miss the perfect shot by shaking.

To focus on your subject, use AI Servo (or continuous focus) with a single shot. You want to use a single shot to continue a smooth panning motion even after the photo is finished.

As your subject is passing in front of you, focus on it and match its speed with your panning motion. When it reaches the perfect point, press the shutter while continuing to maintain the same panning speed. After your photo finishes, continue panning so that you are sure you maintain the same motion throughout the entire photograph.

The end result should show your subject in focus with the background blurred, showing speed and action within the photograph!

Here’s an instructional video to help you grasp the technique!

Like I said, panning for sports and wildlife will give you action photography shots that actually show action occurring in the photo. It’s amazing how much better a shot can look with the contrast or still versus movement. Panning will definitely help you take better action shots to improve your photography.

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