Panning and Framing

 Let's face it, a poorly framed photograph is just another snapshot. On the other hand, a properly framed image will draw your eye to the subject, make you think for a moment, and stir emotion. Getting creative within the frame adds even more interest. Consider the above photo. I framed the train's engineer in the window of the engine while panning to show motion... and perhaps his emotion. You can almost hear his thoughts, "Ugh, round and round I go, and these people call this fun."

This picture was made at Travel Town in Griffith Park near downtown Los Angeles. It's a train museum where they have old locomotives, rail cars, cabooses, and all the fixins' on display that go along with the rail industry. They also have a small train ride that rolls around the entire park. My cousin had his little boy's three year old birthday party there on the day I made this photo. Train themed, of course.

The little train runs passengers around and around for hours, and it continued to pass right by where we were sitting. While watching the train roll past I created this picture's image in my head then picked the spot that would allow me to pan, while getting the engineer sitting in the window of the engine.

Panning shots are tough to capture. You have to move your camera at the same speed as the subject using a slow enough shutter speed so the background blurs all while keeping the subject sharply in focus. Panning creates the perception that the subject is moving. For this shot I set the shutter to 1/40th of a second. When lowering the shutter be mindful of the exposure triangle. That means you have to adjust either your aperture or ISO, or both to maintain a properly exposed image.

The second part to capturing a good panning shot is to place the focal point on the subject and move with it. In this case I wanted the engineer in focus looking through the window of the engine to create a frame within the frame. Panning makes for a cool affect and framing within the frame adds more interest.

My first challenge is to have you try some panning shots. Bicycles are great. They're fast enough to create nice motion blur, yet slow enough to help you set up the shot while showing lots of movement. Other vehicles work, too. Just note, the faster the object the faster you can set the shutter speed. Play around with various moving vehicles, and shutter speeds to get the hang of it. I find pans are hard to do well, but when you capture a great one you know it, and it feels good, too.

Second, look to frame your subject within the image. You can make a photograph while looking through the opening of a tent, a side mirror on a car (also adding a reflection), place the subject between columns of a building, or just about anything else that adds a frame. 

Overall, anything you do to add interest to a photo is great. Just be sure your subject is well composed and you can't be wrong. Now go outside and take a picture!