my flickr photostream

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Capturing motion with pan-blur

Mea (2)
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Looking for a way to spice up your action shots? Try adding some motion using a pan-blur technique. The picture above is of our friends' hyper one-year old puppy, Mea. She was at the cabin with us this weekend, and ran around the entire time. I was taking pictures of her, and she was moving around so quickly that I ended up getting a few blurry shots. It was a happy accident, and I thought I'd try to emphasize her playfulness using a pan-blur technique. I set my lens to wide angle, held it low at her eye level, and tried to keep it in constant motion with her head while I released the shutter. There were a lot of unusable shots, but I was rewarded with the shot above, which I think really captures her spirit and my experience with her over the weekend

Below is a more typical example of a pan-blur shot I took at the Tour of California race in February of this year. Sports shooters use this technique a lot to show subject motion and to help isolate the subject from the background. Again, this turned out to be one of the few usable shots I got (shooting bikers flying by at 30mph is hard), but it's one of my favorites from the race.

© 2009 Simon Hucko

To summarize: set your camera to a long-ish shutter speed (1/100 is a good starting place). Follow your subject in the viewfinder (pan). While you're moving, press the shutter keeping the motion of the camera locked with the subject. Repeat. That last step is important - you're going to miss a lot of these, especially when you first start. The more you shoot, the higher your chances of success. Also, as you practice, you'll get better at keeping the camera motion steady while you release the shutter.

Give it a try next time you're shooting something that moves (kids, animals, cars, sports, bikes, marbles, whatever).



  1. Great shots! I've tried this technique a couple times with Riley... not as successfully. I think you're right, though, I just gotta practice more.

  2. @Kristan - Practice certainly helps. It's probably much harder to do with a point and shoot because of the huge shutter lag, especially with a puppy who doesn't travel in a predictable straight line ;)