Panning for moving vehicles

Home / Photography Tips / Panning for moving vehicles

Photographing Moving vehicles:
So you want to capture those moving cars and show that awesome speed. Have the cars steady yet, have the wheels moving, and the background makes you feel like everything is moving?
Do you?
Its simple… lets set Tv or S mode, well, does saying Shutter Priority help? may be. So most people capture fairly steady shots at 1/60 seconds and below that the motion blurs are more apparent..which means anything moving, its motion may start looking more obvious in your photo. so lets start with Shutter priority mode, 1/30 seconds and autofocus on. How’s that? and wait for the vehicle to come in your frame. Don’t chase them. Let them come into the frame. Soon as it arrives, move the camera in the direction vehicle is moving. you gotta try this a few times. If your camera panning and the vehicle speed match well enough, voila! you may have the picture. Slower vehicle passing by, try slightly slower shutter speed, 1/15 or 1/8 per say. Faster? then try 1/60. Make sure you keep your hand stead vertically during panning.

Panning Image by my student Samar Deo
Panning Image by my student Samar Deo during Photothon event in Mumbai Fort


Okay, now that we know how to pan and get a fairly sharp image of a vehicle and have that awesum effect of the moving background. What is it that I have to be careful about? Any guesses? Lets first discuss while taking the panning image where should we stand? How far from the road? What about the background?
1. First stand at a safe location on a footpath and where the view of the road is clear.
2. Stand Where the vehicles are not turning. This helps to keep the movement of the hands easy horizontal throughout.
3. Distance of the vehicle and you is at least some 50 feet. This will allow you to give ample time to pan from left to right or other way. Going too close increases the relative velocity of the vehicle and which means you need a faster shutter speed and lower probability to get a sharper image.
4. Select the background that is not having a stark contrast of light and shadows. It may so happen that slightly slower shutter speed could cause the bright areas to overexpose and you may notice the white strikes across the image, and will look unpleasant. Here in the following image, slight negative compensation avoid such overexposure.

Well I hope that made sense and will help perfect your panning exercise.
Practice will help of course. Keep making tries. Just follow these guidelines. You will get an awesome panning shot. Promise!


Leave a Comment