Learn Digital Panning in Zoner Photo Studio

Panning is a technique that photographers use to emphasize motion. They follow a moving object with their camera, and press the trigger at just the right moment. This keeps the photo’s main subject sharp, while blurring its surroundings. That’s nice when you can manage it… but what if you need to fake it after the shot? Read on to find out!  

Panning during shots is a great way to capture motion in photos, without needing digital edits. But we’ll be going for the opposite: simulating panning via edits. We’ll be doing them in Zoner Photo Studio.

Panning used while photographing a moving object. Olympus OM-D E-M5, Olympus Zuiko Digital 14–150 mm F4–5.6, 1/160 s, F16, ISO 200, 120 mm.

Panning used while photographing a moving object. Olympus OM-D E-M5, Olympus Zuiko Digital 14–150 mm F4–5.6, 1/160 s, F16, ISO 200, 120 mm. 

Nothing pays off more in photography than getting exactly the right look for your picture right during the shot.  This saves you lots of time with editing. That’s how it is with panning—with just a little practice, you can avoid the need to make time-consuming computer edits.

But sometimes it can happen that you don’t manage to switch the camera settings over fast enough, and instead of a long exposure time, you accidentally freeze the moving object using an extremely short exposure time. Then you have no choice but to either repeat the shot (if you can), or try simulating the panning in a photo editor.

A subject accidentally frozen in motion. In our example, this is the picture where we want to simulate panning.

A subject accidentally frozen in motion. In our example, this is the picture where we want to simulate panning.

Tools You’ll Need
Lasso (L), Magnetic Lasso (A), Selection Brush (Shift + Q), Blur (Ctrl + 6), and some experience in working with selections

It’s important to work carefully when selecting the object that you want to leave sharp. Separate it from its surroundings precisely, to keep your digital changes to the picture from being too visible. Ideally they should be impossible to notice.

Note: By the way, when making your edits to a photo like this one, don’t only directionally blur the surroundings of the picture’s subject. Blur the vehicle’s spinning wheels as well. 

Go to Zoner’s Editor, and then zoom in to at least 1:1. (You can use the star key on the numeric keypad for this.) Select the object that should remain sharp in the final picture. Use the selection tools in the Toolbox, on the Editor’s right side, for this work. The Lasso, Magnetic Lasso, and Selection Brush are especially useful here. All these tools have shortcut keys, like L for the Lasso. Run the mouse over a tool to see its shortcut. Watch for shortcuts for every tool in Zoner—they really speed things up.

Selection, piece by piece, of the photo’s subject. We’ll use this selection to exclude the subject from the motion blurring.

Selection, piece by piece, of the photo’s subject. We’ll use this selection to exclude the subject from the motion blurring.

Tip: Use the Add to Selection and Remove from Selection modes to gradually piece a total selection together part by part, even using different selection tools. Use the Shift and Ctrl keys to turn on these modes temporarily while you work.

Once your selection is ready, it’s a good idea to save it. Use the Selection menu’s Save Selection item for this. This lets you quickly and easily recreate your selection for the given photo later on if needed.

Saving the selection.

Saving the selection. 

Tip: In some cases you may also want to take advantage of Modify Selection, also found in the Selection menu. Most useful in the Modify Selection window are the controls for growing and shrinking the selection and for blurring the border between the selected and unselected parts of the picture. 

Now invert the selection, by clicking the Invert button or using the Ctrl+Shift+I keyboard shortcut.

Inverting the selection.

Inverting the selection. 

Use the Adjust menu’s Blur item. In the Type box, pick Directional blurring. Set a blurring Strength and Direction that are a good fit for the picture you’re working with. In our example we’ve set Strength to 21 and Direction to 105°. Don’t forget to turn on Blur only selected area.

Directional Blurring.

Directional Blurring.

The main part of the editing is ready. Now it’s time to blur the wheels. Do this the same way as you blurred the surroundings. Use the  Elliptical Selection tool to select the spinning wheels, and then use  Blur to make them actually look like the spinning wheels that they are.This time around, don’t use directional blurring—instead, in the Type list, pick Rotation. In the case of our sample picture, there’s one more part that needs handling: the bit of landscape showing through the window. This too will need mild blurring. This works the same as the blurring of the car’s surroundings.

Our sample picture after edits.

Our sample picture after edits.

Last updated 27. August 2014

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Author: Tomas Slavicek

I worked almost seven years for a photography magazine. Today as a freelancer I write, photograph, teach, and join text with pictures. In all these lines of work one thing stays true: I always need to see visual results for my work, even if only as a virtual image on a monitor.

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