Getting The Shot: Panning

Have you ever looked at a photo and wondered “How’d they get that shot?” If yes then this new series of blog posts is for you! We’ll be sharing the details behind our images to give you insight into the process taken to get the shot.

Let’s dive right in! Here’s the first image we’ll be looking at:

Upload from July 11, 2011

Camera settings

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: 50mm f/1.4
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/30sec
ISO: 50

Image Details:

Auto-rickshaws (a 3-wheeled taxi, also known as Tuk-Tuks) are a ubiquitous form of transportation found in many parts of the world. This photo was taken on the streets of Calcutta, India. 2008.

How It Was Shot:

This photo is an example of a technique called panning, which works particularly well with moving objects like bicycles and cars. With panning you use a slow shutter speed, and follow the subject (panning the camera) as it moves past you—then you take the photo.

By using a slower shutter speed (experiment with 1/15sec to 1/60sec) your subject will remain relatively sharp while the background shows motion blur.


Panning is a technique that takes a bit of practice, so be patient. Experiment and persist!

Try using your camera’s Tv (or sometimes S) mode in order to control the shutter speed, while the camera automatically sets aperture. You can also do panning in Manual mode, if you prefer to set both the shutter speed and the aperture.

Keep in mind that in order to achieve the best motion blur you need to release the shutter while you’re panning. When first practicing it’s easy to get caught up with the actual panning motion, and either release the shutter too early or too late.

How It Was Processed:

Upload from July 11, 2011

Upload from July 11, 2011

The photo was shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom.

The background of this image was fairly bright so exposure was reduced and recovery was used to bring back lost detail in the highlights.

The exposure was a bit washed out so blacks were increased in order to shift the tonal data toward the black point and achieve darker looking blacks in the image.

Since exposure was reduced the image was a bit darker so brightness was increased in order to brighten the image without losing highlight detail.

Contrast and clarity were increased to add some punch as well as vibrance to make the colors stand out a bit more

The centre of this image was much darker than the outer edges, so in order to draw the eye back to the centre a well-feathered vignette was added. 

I wanted to draw the viewers eye to the passenger in the back of the auto-rickshaw, specifically his face and eyes. Using the adjustment brush I brightened his clothes (his shirt leads right up to his face), and slightly brightened his face. I also brightened the auto-rickshaw overall in order to help it stand out a bit more. Finally, I darkened the driver since I wanted the focus to be on the passenger.

Finally I applied a bit of sharpening. It’s difficult to get panning shots tack sharp (especially when zoomed into 100%), so a little sharpening helped out.

Time spent processing: About 5 minutes

To see a full size version of the image, click here.

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

Extremely Essential Camera Skills

Extremely Essential Camera Skills

A multi-media tutorial designed to help you get control over your camera, and get creative and confident with your photography.

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11 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Great post guys. Thanks so much for this. I really enjoy how you can see the intense look on the passengers face along with how he is really hanging on with his hand. They must have been moving! :]

  2. malithi says:

    Stupendous post as always! SO excited for this series :)

  3. Awesome post. Helpful.

  4. very usefull indeed. Mainly the part of the process in lightroom :)

  5. Thanks for this interesting article.

    What I'd also really like to see is an article on whether it's possible to combine, successfully, panning with high speed sync fill flash; or standard flash :).


  6. Thanks for all the kind comments guys! So glad you enjoyed the post.

    Des, that's a great suggestion! I think we're going to explore panning further, so I really like that as another thing to try out!

  7. This is a cool shot. I'm new to photography. My camera of choice is Nikon. I looking forward to learning lots of new tricks of the trade on here. Any tips for a Nikon user would be greatly appreciated.

  8. This technique also works great for amusement park rides (at least the kiddie rides, which don't move quite so fast :-).

  9. *@Ella:* Thanks! We use Canon, but the tips we share are for everyone! The fundamentals apply no matter what brand you use :)

    *@Paul:* Awesome suggestion! I'll have to try that out! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Hi guys
    firstly i love your work. My husband and i are travelling to south Africa in april and we just bought a canon rebel T3. I've taken your course on how to use it (fantastic!) and now am going through some of your articles….
    question: the 50mm/1.4 lens is this a prime lens?

  11. Hey Taheera! Glad to hear you enjoyed Extremely Essential Camera Skills!

    The 50mm f/1.4 is a prime lens. A fixed focal length like the 50mm f/1.4 is a prime lens. As opposed to a zoom lens that shifts between focal lengths like an 18mm-55mm.

    Have an awesome time photographing in South Africa! What an incredible experience that will be!

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