Panning Blurrrrrr – Weekend Experiment #4

Photography Basics - Weekend ExperimentThis is one weekend experiment where it might be helpful to actually own a bunny. But barring a bunny, you can use any moving object.

If you have kids they will have an assignment today and will be your test pilots! Pets, cars, speedboat attempting to elude James Bond…use what moving object you may have at hand. We want motion.

Fun With Panning Blur

Here’s what we’re going to do. First, review the Panning Blur & Capturing Motion post, please. This is what I want you to attempt.

Panning BlurRead these directions before attempting the experiment. Here’s the scenario and setup:

  1. Set yourself up in a location that is mostly dark. In the shade on a sunny day or inside. Not dark, but not full daylight, works best. Dusk is a good time.
  2. Handhold your camera (even though this experiment can be done with a tripod, avoid it for now).
  3. Set your camera to Shutter Priority Mode.
  4. Set your ISO to 100 and your Shutter Speed to 1/10th. Being in Shutter Priority means your camera will choose the appropriate aperture. When pointing your camera at your scene, if your aperture setting blinks or says “HI”, it is not being friendly. It means there is too much light and you need to use 1/20th of a second. Going much faster than 1/20th of a second makes this experiment not work well, so try to stay as low as possible, moving to a darker area if need be.
  5. Have your subject stand directly in front of you, facing to your left, about 10′ (3m) away. Focus on them and then turn your camera to manual focus (you will not need to do this every time, it is just to help reduce the variables in this experiment).
  6. Now have your subject back up 15′ (10,324m) to your right (it should be directly backwards for them).
  7. Point your camera at your subject and don’t take it off of them the entire experiment.
  8. Now, have your subject move across the space from your right to left at a constant rate, not too fast. Walking. If your subject is a dog or 2 year old child, good luck. Make sure the subject stays in a straight line and does not get closer or further from you.
  9. When the subject hits a spot directly in front of you (so their path of travel is perpendicular to you, making a T), take a shot or two. <CLICK!><CLICK!>
  10. But keep moving with them!!
  11. Eventually, before they run into something, have the subject stop.


One of the keys to this experiment is step 10. The idea is to track with the subject and match their speed and to shoot while moving. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it will result, with practice, in a shot like the hippo above.

It takes practice. The keys are to have the subject moving side to side, not front to back (that’s a whole other ball of wax) at a constant speed and to be moving with them while you shoot.

To increase your odds, turn on your high speed frame rate and just hold down the shutter. The biggest key is matching their speed.


  1. What happens when you try the same experiment when the subject is 30′ (10m) away from you?
  2. What happens when you try the same experiment when the subject is 1′ (.0000000000003m) away from you?
  3. At 10′ away, have the subject run past you at full speed (this is where 2 year olds come in handy). What changes?

I have left out some info on purpose as I want you to try to think critically about what’s going on. Remember, this is a time for learning, not for producing Pulitzer Prize worthy photos. Fame and fortune shall follow, later.

Give the assignment a whirl and let me know how it goes. I’m curious to see your results.

Oh, and in the future, you don’t need to set the focus to manual, you can leave it on auto if you like. But just know which focus points your camera is selecting to make sure the subject stays in focus.

Questions?  Pop ’em like Pez in the comments section below. or email me at

Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure, and its companion 40 Photography Experiments, are series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey. The series are designed to unravel the mysteries of photography, helping you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

Photo ToursIf you enjoy the series, consider learning photography first-hand on a professionally led international photo tour in Nepal or Bhutan. More information can be found at Far Horizon Photo Tours

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