There’s a lot of room for creativity and experimentation in the genre of ICM photography. In this article, we’ll offer five tips for creating awesome ICM images. Let’s jump right in!
What Is ICM Photography?
ICM photography, or Intentional Camera Movement, is a method that combines camera movements with slow shutter speeds to produce artistic images. Apart from motion and blur effects, good ICM images have been known to invoke emotions in viewers when elements like color, texture, and motion stir the subconscious.
There are two broad-based categories of images that are produced: impressionist and abstract. Impressionist images are the most common type of ICM photography. They tend to contain subjects and places that are recognizable. On the other end of the spectrum, abstract ICM images will generally be unrecognizable, although that’s not always the case because of varying definitions of the term.
Regardless of definitions, ICM images tend to be blurry or display degrees of motion due to the shutter lag. But one point is widely agreed on when it comes to ICM photography: images and their effects are created intentionally.
In other words, photographer errors like dialing in the wrong camera settings, shaky hands, or not using a tripod when necessary, can’t be called ICM images just because an image appears blurry; there must be an intention to produce the effects.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started shooting ICM photography.
1. Wear the Right Camera Gear
The great thing about ICM photography is that it doesn’t require an expensive camera. There are just a few features that are necessary for shooting ICM and one accessory that’s useful and required for bright sunny days.
To shoot ICM photography, your camera will need to have a manual mode that allows you to control the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. Most consumer cameras on the market, including many smartphones, have a manual mode. If you have one such camera, then you’re ready to get started with ICM photography.
We have a great article on why you should be using manual mode in your photography.
A neutral density filter is optional, but necessary if you’re shooting ICM photography in bright light. This will allow you to shoot with slow shutter speeds in conditions that would normally overexpose your images. Consider a 3-stop ND filter for shooting brightly-lit ambient scenes and a minimum of a 6-stop ND filter for shooting directly into the sun for those days at the beach.
Tripods are completely optional. But we list them here because you can create multiple exposures for landscapes when shooting ICM photography. There may be other situations too when a tripod would come in handy. In cases when you need the camera to be in the exact same spot for two or more shots, then definitely use a tripod.
If you don’t own a tripod, we’ve got you covered. Have a look at our top tripod alternatives for photographers.
2. Get Your Camera Settings Right
There are two common approaches to shooting ICM photography. We talked about manual mode already and that having a camera with this feature is essential. But another method for shooting ICM photography is to use shutter priority.
Shutter priority is probably best for walking around and shooting as you go in conditions with lighting that changes. It’s perfect for photographing people because you won’t always have time to adjust all the settings in manual mode. Here are a few tips for shooting in shutter priority:
- Make sure you have Auto ISO selected.
- Use a minimum shutter speed of 1/4 of a second.
- Use Manual Focus set to infinity.
- Shoot in Raw if your camera has it.
Shutter priority is also a good place to begin if you’re just learning photography because manual mode can be a little more complicated.
Manual mode is ideal for photographing slow-moving or stationary subjects. That’s because you have the full range of control that your camera offers at your fingertips. When using manual mode, you’ll want to implement the same tips that we mentioned for shutter priority.
General Camera Settings for ICM Photography
Apart from what mode you’re using, the shutter speed is the prime ingredient in making beautiful ICM images. Since you’re making your camera move while you’re taking the picture, you’ll need adequate time to produce the camera movements.
- Your minimum shutter speed should always be 1/4 of a second. Any faster and it’s nearly impossible to create the necessary effect.
- Consider a maximum shutter speed of two seconds when you start out. This is ample time to produce the range of motions in classic ICM photography.
Once you gain experience, you can try experimenting and pushing the shutter speed for longer exposure times. But keep in mind that the slower the shutter speed, the more likely that you’ll need an ND filter so that you won’t overexpose your images.
3. Camera Movements
How you move the camera will determine the look of the motion blur in ICM photography. The ways that you can move the camera, especially at slower shutter speeds, are nearly infinite. But here are a few basic movements that you can use to start out.
- Vertical movements: great for vertical subjects like trees and buildings.
- Lateral movements: ideal for stretching your subjects across the horizon to emphasize color, texture, or design.
- Square or box-like movements: fantastic for architecture.
- Pushing and pulling or zooming in and out: creates a swirl effect.
The type of movement and how far you can physically move the camera are regulated by your shutter speed. The more you need to move your camera around, the slower the shutter speed needs to be.
There’s some great information on camera movement in this video along with in-depth information on ICM photography.
4.What to Shoot
Where you live could likely be the best determining factor in what you should be photographing in the ICM style. If you live near scenic areas, then landscapes could be your best subject. Alternatively, if you live in the city, architecture and street photography may be right for you.
But you should ideally photograph what’s appealing to you. That’s because ICM photography isn’t the easiest genre to work in, and it’ll be much more satisfying shooting subjects that hold meaning to you rather than shooting something just because it’s there.
5. Post Processing
You’ll likely gravitate toward one of two approaches in post-processing. It depends on how much time you want to spend editing your photos and what you set out to achieve. Neither way is right or wrong.
The in-camera approach is probably the most common in ICM photography. This means that most of the ICM effects are achieved when the photo is taken and that there is little or no photo editing. The mindset is to achieve perfection without the need for additional effects.
Those who like to spend a lot of time editing their ICM images tend to want to create more artistic looks. They’ll tend to use more advanced photo editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom and use a variety of third-party plugins. The overall goal is to produce a piece of art, generally speaking, that wouldn’t be otherwise possible with the camera alone.
ICM Photography May Not Be Easy, but It’s Fulfilling
Photographers who’ve been taking pictures for years may find ICM photography a refreshing change of pace as well as artistically satisfying. It takes a lot of practice, but we hope that our tips will get you started on what could be a lifelong passion.