Friday Foto Fun – Master Panning and Snap that Running Dog in Style


Friday Foto Fun – Panning

Welcome back to another week of Friday Foto Fun – it Linda here behind the keyboard. I really hope you enjoyed the interview with the pros of studio dog photography last week – Kathleen from BZ Training shared some of her best tips for photographing Golden Retrievers and how to set up your own home studio.

(The next paragraph rambles on a bit so feel free to fast forward to the section about panning!)

I really thought I’d be itching to buy a studio photography set after reading Kathleen’s interview, and I had even thought about a good spot in our house for setting it all up.

But ironically it was something completely different in her interview that really caught my eye and made me think about the photos I take of Alfie.

“I try to work with their strengths, with what they give me by their nature and their whims that particular day. The dogs you see in the pictures are,  for the most part, the dogs I see when I’m not taking pictures. 

If I had dogs that delighted in running, then I would be thinking of ways to incorporate a lot of motion into my shots.”

Why have I been trying so hard to capture Alfie sitting still, looking this or that way when what he loves more than anything is running, playing and coming up with mischief wherever he goes?

Back to the drawing board.

Let me think.

Dogs – motion – shutter speed…


Lets try some Panning!

Master Panning and Snap that Running Dog in Style

Panning is a really cool photography technique for action shots – the background gets blurred out making it appear like the subject is moving even faster, but the subject itself (the dog) remains relatively sharp.

You capture a sense of speed, action and movement – perfect for running dogs!

The technique is one of those where you could get incredibly lucky with your first shot & land the photograph of your life – or you have to spend weeks practicing, adjusting the camera settings and and practicing some more.

Panning – the Basics

1. Set your camera to a relatively low shutter speed, using the shutter priority mode. I tried a range of shutter speeds from 1/20 sec to 1/60 sec when photographing Alfie. Depending on how fast your dog moves, you might need to adjust this -as a rule of thumb, if everything in your picture comes out blurry you’ll need to increase the shutter speed. If nothing is blurry, the opposite applies. If you have no clue about shutter speed, check out my tutorial on how to use the shutter priority mode of your D-SLR.

2. Get your dog to run in a straight line from point A to B. You want to position yourself so that you’re parallell to his path (imagine him running from the left side of your view finder to the right one for example). I used a ‘sit, stay and fetch’ combination of commands to get Alfie to run where I wanted him to go – but if you have an assistant who can trow a ball in the right direction for your dog to fetch, so much the better!

3. Check if your camera has an continuous automatic (or servo) focus mode and use it. If your camera’s focus is too slow, then you’ll have to pre focus on a spot right in front of you where you think the action will look the best, and press the release button when your dog gets there.

4. Track the dog with your camera as he approaches from one side, then press the release button just as he runs past you and continue to follow the dog with your view finder for a short while.

If your camera has a burst mode or continuous drive mode, then you can increase your hit rate significantly – and using a tripod could reduce some of the blur created by your moving the camera.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Still don’t feel like you understand panning? Check out this brilliant video:

I really, really wish it was as easy as it sounds, but its sooo incredibly difficult to both direct the dog and tracking him with the camera – the pics in this post are the only ones that turned out okay from the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in the last week! But as they say, practice makes perfect….and I’ve practiced a lot!

Panning Bloopers



I used a shutter speed of just 1/20 sec here, and as you can see both the dog as well as the background ended up blurry...


Can't make up my mind if this is a blooper or not?

Bum panning?

So close, but the autofocus landed on Alfie's belly instead of his face!


Have you ever tried using the panning technique when photographing your dog? Do you have any tips or questions?

This post is part of our weekly feature – Friday Foto Fun. Check out some of the previous week’s tips and ideas in the links below – and if you’d like to share the tips on your blog you can grab the code and paste it into your html editor.










  1. says

    Love that top panning shot! You’re lucky to have someplace where you can get a side view – my yard is sadly too narrow for that, although Zachary doesn’t care as there’s plenty of length for fetch. :)

  2. says

    I have tried panning just a bit and was able to do it a bit at a dog show. There the dogs were somewhat controlled. However my own dogs or your Alfie in a full out tilt run…. WOW you really did a great job! You have set a challenge up for me now! Great tips and help.

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