Shooting Action (Panning)


Justin Velicky bat Speed SDR
Justin Velicky at Speed SDR


Welcome back, I hope you have had chance to use some of tips from my last two post. This post we are going to learn how to give your action shots some action.


In my last two post we talked about Aperture Priority, and ISO, both very important to getting a great action shot. Okay so now lets try and make your subject look like it’s moving. If you set your camera to TV (Canon) S (Nikon), this will allow you to adjust your shutter speed and let the camera set the aperture for you. The image above was shot with a Canon 7D in shutter priority mode (TV).

When you use shutter priority you can slow down your shutter speed enough to blur the background, and make your subject look like it’s moving fast. Know remember when you change one thing something else is going to have to change as well. Lets say you are shooting your child running in a track meet, and you have been shooting in AV mode, and have got some wonderful images that look sharp and stopped the action in the scene. Switch your camera to S,TV and turn down your shutter speed to around 200-120 to start with. When you make this change your camera is going to choose a smaller aperture to keep a good exposer. In AV mode you might have a F-stop of 2.8-5.6 to get a 1000, 2000, shutter speed. Know with a Shutter speed (SS) of 120 you are allowing a lot more light to hit your sensor. This is why your camera has close down the aperture to make up for your SS.


Okay now you have your setting to get some action shots with some blurring in the back ground, you need to learn how to pan with your subject. This can be pretty tricky at first to get your subject in the frame and in focus. What I like to do when shooting in TV mode is to lock focus onto my subject, by holding the shutter button 1/2 way down or use back button focus. Once you get your subject locked on, follow it until you get it into the frame. Then push the shutter button, and continue to follow until it’s well out of the frame. Like for this flat track shot above I locked on focus when he was coming into the corner to my right, and then followed him into my frame in front of me. I then snapped the picture following him to left of me as he went  by.

It may take you a few shots to get the timing right, but stick with it because you will love the results. Always try and get your focus on the eyes or head of your subject. By doing this you are sure to get there expressions in focus, which will give your image that extra punch that you are looking for. After you have mastered panning, start playing with your SS by slowing it down and speeding it up, to get the look your trying to achieve. The slower you go with your SS the harder it is going to be to keep the eyes or head in focus, but when you nail it you will love it. If you can set your camera to a burst mode, this will help you get a shot in focus. Once your subject is in your frame hold the shutter down (spray and pray). Then you might have four or five shots that you can choose from to get that one shot you have been waiting for.



Remember to keep an eye on your ISO as well, try to keep it as low as you can to keep the noise down in your image. I think you will love the results you get in this mode. We all love those crisp frozen shots, but like when shooting motorcycles, or cars it looks like your subject is just sitting still in the corner. When in Shutter Priority mode you can make your subject look like it does in person, moving.




Well I hope this has helped you with you Action Shots. Get out there and set your camera to Shutter Priority Mode and pan away. Have fun.Please leave a comment below and if you have any questions make sure to ask me I will help you get over the hump.

Go to my site to get some ideas of how to capture Action at

Next time on Buzword we will learn how to compose your Action Shots so they stand out from other photographers shooting the same event.



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