Brian Rivera Jr. Photography
Brian Rivera Jr. Photography
Specializing in Fine Art Landscapes & Wildlife

A Guide to ICM Photography

With the evolution of digital cameras, many photographers find that their creative visions have blossomed. This has led to a steep rise in the use of various techniques that would otherwise be impossible to achieve with film. One of these techniques that has gained popularity in recent years is the introduction of Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) photography. It requires the camera to be moved during the exposure causing the image points to move across the sensor; thereby, producing movement in the resulting image. Sure, it sounds simple enough but it has made a profound change to the way photography artists work.

The good news is that ICM photography doesn’t require very advanced or sophisticated gear; you can even do it with a phone, but from an artistic point of view, there are no differences. Nevertheless, the better the camera, the more information your RAW images will have for post. Although tripods can help keep lines and horizons straight, they aren’t really necessary to accomplish this technique. When it comes to choosing lenses, the options are limitless. ND (natural-density) and polarizer filters can; however, be an extremely useful tool (more on this in the Tips section below).

When it comes to camera settings, it usually depends on the subject of the envisioned composition. However, for the best results, try to keep the shutter speed between 1/20th of second all the way up to 3 seconds. ISO should be kept as low as possible and aperture should be mainly used to balance out the light entering the sensor. Additionally, if you have to select a shooting mode, other than Manual, Shutter Priority is usually a good choice as it can can allow you to concentrate only on the shutter speed which is the main factor in ICM photography. Furthermore, always remember that you are using your camera as an artist uses a paint brush so the most important thing to do is to experiment with various settings to see what works best for your artistic vision.

ICM photography tips

  1. Filters

If the exposure that you want to use isn’t possible even after you adjusted the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture then you can use a low-intensity ND filter to lengthen the exposure. The majority of the time a 3-stop or 6-stop ND filter will be enough. If not, then use a stronger ND filter like a 10-stop or 16-stop. Moreover, using a polarizing filter can also help reduce the light to lengthen the exposure. Unlike the ND filters, polarizers enhances the colors and contrast in an image, providing drama, resulting in a more 3-dimensional piece.

2. Amount and Direction of Motion

In order for ICM to be successful, you need to create just the right amount of motion in the image as to clearly show this technique. To accomplish this, the direction in which you decide to move your camera and the amount of movement used is a very important aspect to keep in mind. This is mostly trial and error, though, as this type of photography is an abstract form of representation.

The direction of movement of the camera is an important aspect of ICM photography and it helps the artistic intention to be clearly identified. Different directions can give different results and create different reactions.
These different camera directions can be:

  • Vertical (moving the camera side to side)

  • Horizontal (moving the camera up and down)

  • Circular (rotating the camera)

  • Zoom (zooming the camera during the exposure)

  • Random (moving the camera in an irregular way)

Ocean & Sun—ICM Photography—Vertical Movement—Fast

Ocean & Sun—ICM Photography—Vertical Movement—Fast

Winter Dance—ICM Photography—Horizontal Movement—Fast

Winter Dance—ICM Photography—Horizontal Movement—Fast

The typical subject for ICM photography and one that you will mostly see is landscapes, but any subject can be used since the resulted image will be an abstract one. However, the resulting image has to tell a story or invoke some kind of mood.

Below are just a few ideas of subjects to experiment with.

  • Trees

  • Forests

  • Autumn colors

  • Grass

  • Rivers

  • Waterfalls

  • Birds flying

  • Horses

  • Clouds

  • Rocks in the sea

  • Ships or boats floating on water

  • Sunrises or sunsets

  • Cityscapes

  • Architectural designs

  • Patterns

  • Groups of people or crowds

  • Portraits

  • Cars, trains or other vehicles

  • Fireworks

  • Lights in the dark

Good luck and enjoy the creative possibilities!

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