How to Camera Pan: Taking Pictures of Moving Subjects


I photograph action sports and one of my favourite ways to show off the skills of an athlete is to capture motion by trying a camera pan.

Camera panning can be frustrating at times because it takes a lot of practice to get your subject in focus. With the correct camera settings and procedure, I guarantee you can consistently produce sharp panning shots to wow your viewers.

Springbank Park London Ontario Cup Cycling Road Race Photo How to Camera Pan Sports & Action Photography with photographer Julie Whelan

How to Camera Pan

To make a successful panning shot, you first have to consider how fast your subject is moving. Most of the time, I’m shooting an athlete on foot or on a bicycle, so I use a slow shutter speed like 1/50 of a second and go slower from there if I need to.

If you’re photographing a moving vehicle that moves much faster than a human, you’re going to want to start with a faster shutter speed like 1/250 of a second and adjust from there.

Port Stanley Ontario Reach the Beach Road Race Photo How to Camera Pan Sports & Action Photography with photographer Julie Whelan

Next, you’re going to want to stand parallel to the path of the athlete and tuck your elbows in close to your body to avoid camera shake. If you’re using a long lens like the 70-200mm or 120-300mm lens, try attaching a monopod to make sure you stay steady. You can even kneel down to make yourself even steadier.

Milton Ontario Velodrome Cycle Canada Camera Pan Photo How to Camera Pan Sports & Action Photography with photographer Julie Whelan

With the back-button focus on your camera, pre-focus on the athlete’s face because that absolutely must be in focus. As the athlete approaches, track them smoothly and continually refocus on the athlete’s face.

Springbank Park London Ontario Cyclist Camera Pan Photo How to Camera Pan Sports & Action Photography with photographer Julie Whelan

Release the shutter while panning with the athlete and continue the motion after you release the shutter to make sure it’s smooth.

The important thing to remember when trying to master a camera pan is to be patient. It takes practice, persistence, and a lot of time to achieve consistently sharp pan images, but once you learn the skill, it’s a fun type of image to include in a photo story or a package for your client.

Speed Skating London Ontario Camera Pan Photo How to Camera Pan Sports & Action Photography with photographer Julie Whelan

Any Questions?

If you have any questions or found this post helpful, please like and comment below, and share with your friends.

More How-To’s

For more How-To’s about photographing action sports, read more of our How-To Blog Posts here.

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My Gear

Camera: http://amzn.to/2hf7L4i
Back Up Camera: http://amzn.to/2i2dlrj
Canon Lens: http://amzn.to/2hrzmD9
Sigma Sport Lens: http://amzn.to/2zwmm5M
Kit Lens: http://amzn.to/2zwDsjW
Tripod & Head: http://amzn.to/2yrzplF
Monopod: http://amzn.to/2yqnpR4


About Julie Whelan

Julie Whelan, professional photographer of over fifteen years, has had the opportunity to shoot all over the globe–from capturing portraits in Vanuatu to shooting off rooftops in Maui to photographing products in Calgary. She now finds herself in Ontario photographing outdoor adventures and the active lifestyles of athletic individuals and athletes in competition & training. Julie has also worked with professional athletes such as Don Cherry, Darryl Sittler, and Roberto Alomar. When not behind the lens, Julie likes to unwind with a good book or spending time in the garden.

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