How to Do Panning Shots of Bicycles

If you appreciate photos with movement in them, then definitely check out this tutorial. In this video, learn how to create beautiful panning shots of bicycles in the rain from Gavin Hoey of Adorama. He shows you how to create and post-process panning shots with some simple and easy to follow techniques in Photoshop or Lightroom:

Gear for Panning Shots

First off, Hoey is using a Canon EF 60D with a 24-105mm f/4 L series lens. Because it’s raining, having a camera and lens that are weather sealed were important for the conditions. 

Settings for Panning

For panning shots you’ll want to choose AI SERVO or Continuous Auto Focus mode so your camera tracks the subject. You’ll also want to be on high-speed or continuous shooting mode so you can take multiple shots quickly. For panning shots you’ll want to use Tv mode or shutter priority mode. 

The other settings will vary depending on the light and how fast the bicyclists are moving. For this video, Hoey started with these settings:

  • 1/60 of a second
  • f/11
  • ISO 400

panning at 1/60

This worked but the background didn’t have as much motion as Hoey was hoping for. For the next shots he changed to these settings:

  • 1/30 of a second
  • f/16
  • ISO 400

Amsterdam bicyclist

The motion here was much more noticeable and the subject was still in focus. When he went down to 1/15 of a second you can see that there is too much motion in the subject making the photo too soft and blurry.

blurry shot

Post Processing a Panning Photo

Back in Camera Raw, Hoey wanted to reduce some of the colors in the background to make them less distracting. By choosing the HSL/Greyscale tab and choosing Saturation, he pulled some of the color sliders to the left which made a global adjustment to that color in the entire image. 

camera raw adjustments

To make local adjustments that don’t affect the colors of the subject as well, you can use the Adjustment Brush (this is the same in Lightroom as well). This way you can paint over just the areas you want to adjust and slide the saturation bar to the left.

final after post processing

Panning can be a difficult skill to master, so find somewhere with plenty of bicycles or whatever your subject will be (cars, skateboarders—anything that moves smoothly) and shoot away while playing with your settings. Not every photo will be a keeper, so having a lot to choose from will increase the amount that worked out.

cyclist panning shot

Have you ever tried panning before? What was your subject?

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