How to Shoot Motorsports | Panning and Tracking

One of the fundamental techniques in motorsports photography is panning and tracking. Once mastered the tracking shot can be used to capture motion in just about any fast-paced sport, live event or wildlife scenario. 

Use slow shutter speeds to portray motion and fast shutter speeds to freeze it

With regards to motorsport the goal is to portray motion in the wheels and background while maintaining focus on the car. Start by setting your camera to Shutter Priority mode this is shown on most camera mode dials with an S or Tv. Shutter priority mode allows you to select the shutter speed and then the camera will adjust the aperture value to create a properly exposed photograph.

Your shutter speed determines how quickly or slowly your shutter closes. The longer is it open the more light the sensor can gather to create the image. This will determine how much movement is visibile in your photos. Longer shutter speeds will increase the amount of movement visible in your photographs while very fast shutter speeds will freeze movement.

Set the camera to continuous autofocus and choose one AF point as a crosshair

Our goal is to maintain sharp focus on the car but also to capture a sense of motion fromt the wheels and background blur. Try starting with 1/125 of a second. 

Set the camera to continuous autofocus, usually denoted by C-AF or some variation thereof, and select an AF point you would like to use as a crosshair to track the car.

Position yourself so that you can roughly predict the movement of the subject as it passes you, begin tracking it early through the viewfinder. Once your have composed your shot begin shooting.

Once you're comfortable with these settings try playing with different shutterspeeds and compositions!

Check out the video below:

  • By Matthew Ward
  • 20 May 2017
  • technique, panning and tracking, motorsports photography

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