Last updated on May 18, 2024 by Jacky The Techy, travelling and making photos for 20 years. Read more Focus

When travelling we love making photos of eternal beaches, beautiful landscapes, local food and fantastic portraits of people. All great subjects that show where we are and what we are doing. That’s great! Now what about shooting moving objects?

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Yes, I mean why not adding a twist to your photos creating something different. It is not the average Joe photo and it will stand out.

How easy is shooting moving objects? Not as complicated, you just need some training and guess what? You can do the training in your home or office street.

Freezing the action
Freezing the action

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Shooting moving objects: how to

Shooting moving subjects is always a challenge for photographers, especially if you want to freeze them within the frame.

This is because the very fast shutter speed is needed to eliminate motion blur. This may be 1/500 sec or below for fast subjects

Usually, this means having to increase the ISO, leading to lower quality images with more noise.

It also usually means having to shoot, at larger apertures, so the depth-of-field is relatively shallow, making focus even more difficult to get it right.

Freezing the action is great in many cases but in others can be….how can I say….predictable

The creative way

There is a more creative approach to shooting fast action subjects, which can help capture a sense of movement in your shots, and lead to really impressive results.

Working with slower shutter speeds can help you use subject movement to your advantage by allowing part of the image to blur.

This could either be keeping the camera still and letting the subject blur, or panning the camera to track the subject and keep them frozen, letting the background blur.


Panning may be difficult to get it right at the beginning.

This is because you have to keep the subject at exactly the same place within the frame for the duration of the exposure, or else it will appear blurred as well.

Shooting moving objects - Panning
Shooting moving objects – Panning

Use a shutter speed of 1/20 or 1/25 sec when the person is moving at a speed of 10-40kmh, shorter for faster objects.

Practice of this technique is pretty easy, just go down the road and start shooting.

You can use two types of focus:

  • AF-C : in this case once the camera has focused on the object it will keep following it
  • Manual: focus on 3 meters (assuming that is the distance between you and the object when you shoot). I usually go in manual

When the object is approaching follow it through your viewfinder and shoot your photo. Remember to follow the object for another second or more, do not stop.

I personally love panning because it gives a sense of speed from the subject perspective.

In the below photo we see the Tour De France rider sprinting towards the end of the time trial.

That is what the rider would probably see from his bike, a confusing and yelling crowd that wants him to go faster

Panning the yellow jersey in the TDF
Panning the yellow jersey in the TDF

In both cases above I used a shutter speed at 1/20 of a second

Subject movement

What is the difference between panning and subject movement?

Panning follows the subject as it moves.

Showing the movement highlights the subject action.

In this photo below the subject is actually moving so fast that you can see only the rider trail.

But that is not actually the real subject of the photo, which is instead the village, the crowd and the kid yelling.

Showing movement on a time trial TDF stage
Showing movement on a time trial TDF stage

The photo above was done at a shutter speed of 1/50 of the second.

You may go down to 1/30sec for slower subjects, however, remember that you need to be stable with your camera otherwise the whole photo will have movement

Tripod or not tripod

You may find that using a tripod with a good panning head helps you achieve good results, or a monopod might be easier to manoeuvre.

Personally, I find it easier to handhold the camera. If you can’t quite get your subject to look still, you may have to switch to using slightly faster shutter speed, though this will give you less motion blur.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to capture a real sense of movement in your scene and get some stunning and unusual travel-action images

If you think that this post has helped and you want to know much more about travel photography then you should read and download the FREE Ultimate Guide to Travel Photography (no emails required), a 70 pages PDF file.

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Panning in Asia
Panning in Asia


Stefano Ferro - Founder and Editor

About the Author

Photography is taking me everywhere in the world. I love the technical side of it, how to create my photos minimizing the post-production side of it. More time on the field and less time on the computer. Ten years of experience and counting. Is it enough? Never! I learn new things everyday.

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