September 10, 2011, 9:08 AM — Are you looking for a way to take the coolest photos at your kids' track meet? The pan-motion photographic effect can make them look like they're the Flash.
The pan-motion technique adds drama and movement to photos and is commonly used in sports and even news photography. The idea is that if you slow down your shutter speed and follow your subject with the lens as you are taking the photo, the subject will be clear and the background will be a spectacular blur. To take pan-motion photos, you need a camera with manual controls, a moving subject and a lot of patience and luck.
Pan-photography is a quick, frantic technique so it is best to rid yourself of the variables. If you can, switch to manual focus so your lens doesn't try to auto focus on the background instead of the subject. In high-traffic areas, your plane of focus can be easily predictable. A bike lane, for example, is an easy spot to focus on in order to keep your attention to the subject's speed.
When shooting pan photography, your camera should be in continuous shooting, burst, or bracket mode, so that it takes multiple photos as the subject moves in front of you. Because the camera is moving with your subject, the subject appears still and the background will blur. Out of the dozens of photos that you take, maybe one or two will turn out and the rest will be a blur.
Set your shutter
All DSLRs have a manual option, and many advanced point-and-shoots have them as well. (Check out a list of some of the top point-and-shoot cameras with manual controls.) If your camera has manual settings, a good place to start is shutter-priority mode (usually indicated by S or Tv on the camera dial). Review your instruction manual for how to adjust your ISO and shutter speed in shutter-priority so that your camera will automatically adjust the aperture for you based on how much light is available. If you are using a manual setting, remember that the slower your shutter speed is, the higher your aperture number (or f-stop) must be in order to keep your subject in focus. Otherwise, you will end up with a blown-out, blurry mess.