Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Using panning when photographing children in motion


Panning for movement

As regular readers will know I love the challenge of photographing children in motion.  There is something so wonderful about children running and jumping, playing and having fun full of exuberance and joy in the world around them.  It’s a habit that is so easy to lose as we get older and running, if we do it as adults, is usually for fitness rather than purely for pleasure.   I love that you can say to a child, go outside and run around and they will, up and down the garden, caught up in the speed with wind whistling through their hair.

It’s also fun to photograph children in motion as it’s so challenging – from fast shutter speeds and frozen motion to intentional blur and panning to get a feel for the speed of movement, all done in camera of course, this isn’t a place for photoshop.  I find panning particularly rewarding as it’s can be so hit and miss.  Getting panning exactly right is a mix of skilled judgement and a bit of luck, bringing everything together to create something wonderful.

On my recent family photo shoot in Highgate Woods I wanted to capture the feeling of movement as the boys ran around. They were so full of energy and we had the most brilliant morning, exploring, running, jumping, having fun as the day developed.

We stopped in a clearing for a while to play some games and I realised it would be a great spot for some panning pictures. You need some texture in the background to get the sense of movements, a plain wall or a bright sky just wouldn’t show it up.

Setting my shutter speed low, at 1/4 of a second, I panned with the movement, taking a number of pictures as the scene developed.

This is my favourite.  Zayden caught mid run, turning and almost invisible he’s moving so fast, legs pounding, eyes laughing, he runs towards his brother.  It’s an image where technical skill and the all-important element of luck have come together and I’m so pleased with it.

I always love to experiment on my photo shoots and by doing this I can create really interesting pictures that transcend the genre.  This is one of the aspects of my work that was signalled out by Canon when they chose me to join their prestigious ambassador scheme, the creation of images that are forward thinking, experimental and leading in the field.

If you would be interested in seeing what I can produce for you, striking unique images that will exceed your expectations then do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.