How To: Get a Perfectly Panned Image Every Time

A veteran automotive photographer shares his secrets for success

June2011tipstricks

June2011tipstricks

Rick Dole panned with this BMW M3 GT during the 2010 12 Hours of Sebring event in Sebring, FL. He used a Nikon D300s with a 70–200mm f/2.8 VR Nikkor lens and 1.4X tele-converter at 1/60 sec and f/18; ISO not recorded.Rick Dole

Rick Dole, a Florida pro who specializes in automotive photography in most of its forms, says the secret of a good pan is like that of a good golf swing—it’s all in the follow-through. “In golf, a smooth swing is key. You don’t hit a golf ball without following through. The same is true with panning.”

Panning your camera with a moving subject, he reminds us,serves at least two purposes: It conveys a sense of velocity ormotion by adding streaked lines to the scene, and it cleans up clutter by blurring everything that’s not moving in your composition.

“My technique for panning is fairly simple,” says Dole. “I find a background that contrasts with the color of the car, and as it approaches I stand with my feet and lower body pointing directly in line with where I’ll fire the shutter. I twist my upper body toward the approaching car, and track it in the viewfinder, smoothly untwisting my upper body until it’s directly in front of me. That’s when I fire the shutter because, when it’s parallel to the camera, the car will be sharpest.”