Tuesday Assignment #3 – Panning Blur – 31+ Days To Better Photography

This is one test where it might be helpful to actually own a bunny. But barring a bunny, you can use any moving object. If your kids aren’t in school, they will have an assignment today and will be your test monkeys. Pets, cars, speedboat attempting to elude James Bond…use what moving object you may have at hand. We want motion.

Here’s what we’re going to do. First, review the Panning/Action Blurrrrr post, please. This is what I want you to attempt.

Read these directions first 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 as 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, 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).
  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 (left to right does not matter) 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.

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.

31 Days To Better Photography is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates, and bonus material, all month long. Your comments are always welcome.

4 Replies to “Tuesday Assignment #3 – Panning Blur – 31+ Days To Better Photography”

  1. monstermum

    I did not have a bunny to photo and the kids have all left home but I did get this photo last year on a 2 month driving trip. The driver said they were doing over 150 mph (it seemed quite fast in the passenger seat next to that wall)

    I got quite good at panning as the driver of our vehicle (my dad) wouldn’t always stop for me to take a photo. Next time I go only with my husband… I can get him to stop ;<D

    I hope this link works…

  2. Pingback: Action Blur On Purpose – 31+ Days To Better Photography | The Carey Adventures

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