Tutorial: How to create beautiful ocean panning shots / by Hannah Prewitt

Recently, I posted a couple of ocean panning images on social media. People responded really well to them, and I quickly received a lot of questions asking how to do a shot like that. So, I thought I'd write a quick tutorial explaining my process.

 2.5s, f/22, ISO 64

2.5s, f/22, ISO 64

Technique

So what's the technique? Well, it's a panning shot, which means that you need to move the camera whilst taking the image. So ideally, you'll need a tripod to keep your camera nice and steady, but I have achieved many great panning shots without one, just using my body to stabilise the camera as much as possible. While the shutter is open, you'll need to slowly move your camera from left to right. I personally like to start moving the camera before pressing the shutter, as I find it helps to make the shot much smoother.

 1.6s, f/9, ISO 320

1.6s, f/9, ISO 320

Settings

This type of shot is a long exposure, which means that the shutter is open for a relatively long time. How long is up to you. Start with 1 second, and then experiment around that. I usually find that 1.6 seconds creates a pretty good image. Of course it depends on what you're shooting and how fast everything is moving. Play around with it to find what works for you. Chances are, you'll have to take quite a few shots before getting one you're happy with. Bear in mind, that because we're doing a long exposure, you'll need it to either be dark enough to avoid blowing out your image, or use an ND filter if there is too much light.

 2s, f/14, ISO 200

2s, f/14, ISO 200

What do you shoot?

Obviously we're shooting the ocean. But what the waves are doing is going to have a huge impact on your final image. The image above was taken from the clifftop overlooking a peeling point break in Bali. But shooting from the shore of a beach break is going to give you different results, because the waves are more shifty and there's probably going to be some white water (which is how I achieved the different colours in this shot below).

 1.6s, f/4.5, ISO 400

1.6s, f/4.5, ISO 400

Also, if you have clouds in your photo, then the final image will look different compared to a clear sky. Personally, I think clear skies work best.

 1s, f/22, ISO 50

1s, f/22, ISO 50

And it's as simple as that! Hopefully you're now able to take your own awesome ocean panning shots. Please feel free to tag me or send me your images. I'd love to see them!