Tag Archives: depth

Panning: how and when to use it in photography

What is panning?

Panning is a photography skill that involves moving the camera left to right or up and down to follow your subject while they are moving. You can also slow the shutter speed down in order to blur the background as you take the picture.

This blog post will show you two of the ways it can be used. There will be a follow up post showing another two uses and some exercises on how to improve your panning skills.

Usually this skill is used in sports photography with very fast moving subjects but it has many more uses.

I feel that panning is a great skill to learn, as not everything you will photograph will stay still. Sometimes you are moving and the subject is stationary, so you need to pan with it. An example would be taking a picture from a fast moving train.

How do I use it on my camera?

There is not one setting that makes panning what it is. It is a mixture of movements and shutter speed that will get the result you want. Image stabilisation can be helpful but was not used in any of the examples below. This post walks through a few different examples of panning, showing the settings and how to get similar results.

What does it do to my pictures?
Blurring the background, while keeping the subject sharp

This is typically the look that people want from panning. Blurring the background and keeping the subject sharp draws attention to the subject and takes the focus away from the background. This could be useful where the background is distracting or muddled with colours.

01 Panning 1Canon 40D, ISO100 1/80th 135mm F7.1: By panning with the car I have been able to keep the car sharp while it was driving past me at about 120km/h. By using a large number F there is enough depth for the driver to be sharp as well.

02 Panning 2Canon 7D, ISO1600 1/60th 105mm F4: By panning at such a slow shutter speed I have removed the distracting crowd in the background of this shot, and the focus remains on the driver and his bike.

10 PanningCanon 5D II, ISO50 1/60th 70mm F14: The timing tower and the white building at Lakeside are quite an eyesore. By panning and blurring the background, the car (the subject of this photo) is more prominent.

Keeping the subject sharp while you are moving

An example of this is taking a picture from a moving train. Say you wanted to get a picture of a landscape while you were passing it from a moving train. You want a reasonable depth of field, using a large number aperture, this will of course slow the shutter speed down. By panning with your subject you will be able to get a sharper shot than trying to keep the camera still.

03 Panning  3Canon 5D II, ISO400 1/180th 50mm F6.7: This shot was taken from a moving train in Intelaken, Switzerland. I wanted a slow shutter speed so the waterfall wouldn’t look frozen, by panning I have allowed the shot not to blur.

Blurring the foreground to remove it from the picture

This is not usually seen in the everyday world of a photographer, but motorsport photographers have to deal with photographing through fences, crowds of people or many other objects to get the shot. Sometimes you can use a small number aperture to get the fence out of focus, but you can also do it by panning. By slowing the shutter speed down you can actually blur out the fence.

05 PanningCanon 7D, ISO100 1/80th 16mm F9: The blurry brown in the foreground is tall grass. As the sun was behind me, this was “the best angle” from which to capture this car. However the grass in the foreground was in the way. I couldn’t move the grass, so I had to use a slow shutter speed to blur it out of the photo.

06 PanningTop Left, Canon 5D II, ISO400 1/125th 70mm F8, Bottom Right, Canon 5D II, ISO100 1/125th 150mm F3.5: The fence in the top left picture is starting to disappear with some panning at 1/125th. By getting closer to the fence, using a longer length lens and a smaller aperture, the fence in the bottom right almost looks to have disappeared.

To Be Continued

Understanding Panoramic Photos

What is it?

A common definition of panoramic photos is based on its field of view and the physical dimensions of the print. Generally its more than the eye can see – so greater than 170°, and usually the rectangular photo is 2 times its height or greater.

What do I need to think about when taking one?

First, you need a wide scene to photograph, for example a landscape, cityscape or aerial view. Then you need to be mindful that you will be photographing usually more than 200°, which could mean that you are going to be shooting into different light situations. Also as you are photographing, moving objects (such as clouds, people or boats etc) may confuse the software – just be aware of what’s in the entire scene you intend to shoot.

You really want the software to do as little as possible for you, so its best to make the exposure the same, even the white balance. As a rule, when I’m shooting panoramas, I set the camera to manual and get a light reading across my image. I expose for the shadows, ie the darkest parts of the WHOLE panorama, and set my white balance to one setting.

Most of the software on the market works LEFT to RIGHT and TOP to BOTTOM, just like we read a book – so when shooting, follow this same sequence. Yes, you can shoot more than one row of pictures!

When taking your pictures swing the camera 90° so it’s taking a portrait, this will make your finished product taller, and give it a larger resolution.

Lastly OVERLAP your shots. I generally overlap my panoramic shots by 1/3, which means when I take my second shot, there is 2/3 of the old shot in my shot and 1/3 of the new shot. This will generally increase the number of images, but gives me the depth to be able to drop a shot out of the sequence if there is a moving object in it.

You can buy hardware like a Pano Head, which is motorised, and will move the camera and take the pictures for you. When you load the images into this products’ corresponding software it makes it even easier to stitch together.

I have taken all of my panoramic photos hand held, and used AutoPanoPro to do the stitching. It is very straight forward to use and has adjustments so you can straighten horizons and much more. But if you want to have a go and don’t want to spend any money, I have found some free software called Hugin. It is slower than AutoPanoPro and a little harder to get around, but has the same functionality to correct horizons and more. It’s still quite powerful and it’s FREE.  There are many other programs you can use – these are my experiences with the above two.

What does it do to my pictures?

Panoramic photos allow you to show a wider perspective than standard, and will allow you to get a picture of something that is wider than you can currently take in one shot. It allows you to make images of cityscapes and landscapes with lots more detail.

Examples

panoramic photosShibuya Crossing, Japan; 9 shots. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D at 10mm. If you look carefully, the taxi and white car appear twice as they were moving through the scene as I was taking the images.

panoramic photosThe Milky Way, 11 shots. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and at 18mm the left and right of the photo are opposite horizons.

panoramic photosMoffat Beach, Australia; 41 shots.  The exposure was set for the middle and right of the image and the sun has slightly blown out (created the very bright white areas) on the left.

panoramic photosBrighton Jetty Classic 2010, Australia; 9 shots taken from a helicopter as it flew left to right.

panoramic photosTokyo, Japan; 83 shots 3 rows high and 27 shots wide. Taken from the Tokyo Tower, the section in the large red rectangle is a crop of the small section in red on the main picture. This image could be printed 3m tall and would be about 27m long.

panoramic photosCrazy Coaster, Brisbane Ekka 2012; These images were never shot to be a panorama, but I saw the opportunity to see if they would work, and it did. If you look carefully, the riders are the same in each car. So dont be scared to give something a go!

Try This

Take a 4 or 5 shot Panorama and have some fun editing it with Hugin. See if you like the outcome, and don’t forget the tips:

  • Set Exposure manually for the darkest spots
  • Set the white balance
  • Shoot portrait and overlap




Aperture

What is it?

Aperture is a way of controlling how much light comes into your camera. It’s based on the size of the hole in your lens. By changing lenses you can improve the maximum aperture.Aperture Priority

How do I use it on my camera?

Depending on the camera make and model you have, by using the A or Av (Aperture Priority) mode on your camera dial or menu, you can select the F number that you want the photo to be taken at, the camera will set the shutter speed to maintain the correct exposure. You would use the main scroll or menu to change the F number.

Aperture Priority

What does it do to my pictures?

Simply, the smaller the F number you use the less will be in focus in  your pictures. This will make the object in focus stand out more.  However, there are times that you want lots of the picture in focus, like a landscape or a group of people. To get all of the picture in focus use a larger number.

Aperture PrioritySmall F number: the flower is only thing in focus

Aperture PriorityLarge F number: the flower in the foreground and the flowers in the background are not separated. The flowers in the background are distracting.

Examples

Aperture PriorityF number 11: gives a lot of depth in this picture

Aperture PrioritySmall F number: the water closest is in focus.

Aperture PrioritySmall F number: the back ground is separated from the subject

Aperture PriorityLarger F number: more in focus, the foreground and background are both parts of the picture

Aperture PriorityUsing a larger F number: the subject and his surroundings are both part of the picture

Aperture PriorityF number 22: all of the above image is in focus

Try This

Get your camera, set it to Aperture Priority mode, start at the smallest number you can and then take a series of pictures of the same thing changing the  F number. Note how your pictures are changing. What else is changing when taking these pictures?

Have a read about Shutter Speed and ISO.