TWiP Family 045: Panning Photos for Parents

Today we have a guest host, my good friend, Zane Schwaiger. She wanted to learn how to take panning photos of her kids. She’s doing a daily photo project, a 365 Project, and attempted a panning photo but it wasn’t what she’d hoped.

What is a panning photo?

Panning photos show motion. The shutter speed is slow and the photographer moves her camera with the subject as they move. The background is blurred and the subject stays focused.

Something that is like panning can be created when you are moving with your subject and use a slow shutter speed. Zane and I talked about a photo by Simon Boyle, who is doing a 365 project with us, of his wife on a spinning ride. We also talked about doing a photo of a child spinning with your camera on a timer. I hadn’t tried it when we talked, but I tried it after. These example of photos that use the same motion blur that panning uses.

Here are three ways to capture the action on a spinning ride.

In our conversation, we talk about how to make a panning photo. First, chose a subject moving in a predictable path and speed. Use a high aperture and the highest shutter speed you can while still getting motion blur. I usually use 1/50 or 1/60. Expect a lot of bad photos and have fun.

After our conversation, Zane was inspired to try panning again. She said it took her about 100 photos to get the one that worked.

I love panning photos. I love how much energy they have and how I can embrace the motion of my children when taking a panning photo. I started making panning photos to capture the excitement of sled riding.

I hope this episode encourages you to try some panning photos. Share your panning photos in the comments, even if they didn’t work the way you’d hoped!

If you have a family photography question, a suggestion for a show topic or guest, or just want to say hello – email me –

Zane and I talked about our 365 Projects. Today is a great day to start your project. We’re having a great time sharing our photos in the TWiP Family 365 2016 group on Flickr. Join us.

More about Zane: Website, Flickr, Instagram


  1. Fun podcast, thank you both! I also enjoyed the 365 talk. I love panning, partially because it’s been a way of getting just the moving subject clear and everything else blurry when I’ve only had budget (not very bright) lenses. I have two additional tips that I find helpful, especially when people are learning/practicing: 1) Having your subject doing circles around you can be easier than having them move in a straight line, as it keeps them constant distance from the camera, focusing isn’t an issue and you can fire off a bunch of frames in a row (and there’s no back and forth). Because she stays the same distance from the lens, it also allows a bit of a slower shutter speed too, exaggerating the background blur. Think riding a bike or running circles around you as you pivot. In the real world, capturing the person running or riding around a corner with you standing on the inside of the corner is another great way to capture panning motion. 2) Having the subject, especially her face, on a darker (but busy) background is safer than bright, because if you get the panning (camera) speed off a bit, a bright background can overlap into her face…making matching the speed of the subject so critical. There are a few other things I try to remember but those two are the most helpful ones I learned. Thanks for a great show. -a y on flickr

  2. I loved this podcast! I tried panning as a result at the playground this past weekend. Here is a picture of my daughter. She was moving erratically so only her face is in focus on the one where she’s leaning back, but it was fun. I did both of them at 1/40 of a second. Please let me know if you have any recommendations on how to improve. Thanks for the great podcast and helping me try something new!

  3. Hi Kristen,
    You did it! Just keep playing. Try it at 1/50. Do some on and some off the spinning thing. And, try to do one that she’s on the other side facing you if you can. I am so glad you tried it! Thanks for listening,