Tips for Slow Shutter Speed Wildlife Panning Shots How to nail those wildlife panning shots

In this video wildlife and nature photographer Steve Perry (from backcountrygallery) takes a look at different techniques and methods that will improve your wildlife panning shots.

Creative Tool: Slow Shutter Speed Wildlife Panning

Shooting moving wildlife using a slow shutter speed while panning can be thought of as a creative decision. Your goal will typically be to have the animal (or at least part of it) frozen while the rest of the image has motion blur.

This is not an easy task but with lots of practice and some help from Perry and his useful tips you can master it as well. Here are some points from the video that should help you start:

  • Typically the best results will be achieved with an animal moving in parallel to where the camera is.
  • A more busy background will tend to look better for blurring pan shots compared to plain sky or water.
  • Here is Perry’s rule of thumb for shutter speed for slow shutter panning – for walking animals between 1/4s-1/10s, slow birds 1/10s-1/20s, and for fast birds 1/30s-1/60s. Use faster speeds if the animal is closer (you will have less time to pan). In general the slower the shutter the more blur you get but less chance to get a sharp animal in focus.
  • How sharp is sharp enough? with these types of shots, you need to set your expectations before you go in. Getting tack sharp image on a 50MP body zoomed to 100% doing a fast pan at 1/10 is very rare even for experienced shooters so don’t be too hard on yourself if your images are less sharp than what you are used to.
  • Depending on the lighting conditions it is not uncommon to shoot these slow panning shots at f/16 or higher but if you want to shoot at a closer aperture you can always use an ND or VND filter.
  • Slower f stops do tend to make the light in the background blur more interestingly so keep this in mind and don’t be afraid of the issue of diffraction as the image will probably not be that super sharp anyway.
  • User image stabilization to your advantage if it is available (sports for Nikon lenses and mode 2 for Sony/Canon).
  • User tripod (or monopod) if you can it will help you eliminate some of the shakes and have a loose gimbal head (or pan on a ballhead) and make sure the tripod is leveled for the horizon.
  • When it comes to technique – if you are not using a tripod try and pan with your body not your hands while keeping the camera close to the body.
  • Try and acquire the target as far away as possible so you can adapt to moving the lens at its speed even before you start shooting.
  • If you can and the distance seems right – try using the focus limiter to prevent unwanted focus jumps.
  • Shoot a long burst it is possible that some images will be out of focus or the animal will not be sharp enough but some will.
  • The best tip – it takes time and practice so try, try and try again until you get better.

Perry has a dedicated sub-channel here on LensVid with lots of fantastic content, tips tricks, and techniques for bird, wildlife, and landscape photography.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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