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ICM - Intentional Camera Movement Photography Tips

Updated: May 10, 2022

By Amanda Smith, Braunton Camera Club

Following her excellent talk to the camera club about ICM, Amanda Smith has captured her top tips and guidance in this article. During her talk she addressed questions about what it is and why you'd do it, as well as sharing with us some of her images and describing what made some work really well and others not so well. The recorded talk is available for member viewing.


What is ICM?

It is simply deliberately moving the camera during the exposure.

Why would you do this?

Is it just passing off a badly taken photo as art?

Haven’t we always been told that sharpness and focus is so important in an image?

Is it the ‘emperor’s new clothes’ of modern photography?

These questions and our individual feelings about our answers can make this a form of photography that we can be reluctant to explore, sometimes because it feels so alien (and somehow wrong) to abandon all the ‘rules’ we’ve spent years perfecting, and sometimes simply out of a fear of not being taken seriously by the ‘purists’.

Perhaps it’s time to challenge our thinking and embrace the freedom, unleash the abstract artist within. It’s very creative and very liberating, but surprisingly difficult to do well.

It is easy to assume that you can just wiggle your camera around and achieve a great image in this genre, but that’s a bit like assuming you can just point your camera at a pretty landscape and get a great image. Yes, you can get something you like but that won’t necessarily make it great.


Here are some things to consider before you start:

1. Look for contrasts in the scene, strong highlights and shadows, opposing colours, this will help create definition in the final image instead of a blurry mess

2. Ask yourself if you would have taken an image of the subject without ICM? If the answer is ‘yes’ then it probably has enough interest to work.

3. The rules of composition, light, focal point, colour etc. still apply if you want a great image so planning will help enormously.

4. Less is more when it comes to movement of the camera, tiny movements create a soft painterly quality.

5. Use filters to enable a slower shutter speed. A 6 stop neutral density filter will usually be enough to give a shutter speed of about a second in normal daylight which is a good starting point.

6. Start the movement before pressing the shutter and continue after the exposure has finished for a smoother effect.

7. Movements:

If you want simple straight lines in the final image consider using a tripod with a pan-tilt head to create the movement. This works well for trees with an up/down motion, or for seascapes using horizontal movement. This method and subject matter is probably the easiest way to start and can produce very pleasing results even for beginners.

Try twisting, circular movements back and forth too. This can create a circular ‘frame’ around a subject.

Vary the smoothness of movement, a stepped movement where you linger on one area and then linger on another can create a really nice double exposure feel.

8. Experiment with using the technique in combination with the double-exposure feature on your camera, if you have one, for an added layer of interest or a sharper overlay of the scene. You will need to remove the filter between the two exposures to create one sharper layer using a shorter shutter speed.

9. You don’t necessarily need a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, phones work brilliantly for ICM too, there are many apps that make shutter speed longer any many phones have built-in options.

10. Finally…Anything goes, so don’t be restricted by any of the above, these are tips to get you started not rules. Be free, creative and have fun!


Here are some of my images, they vary in type of movement and shutter speed and produce quite different effects.

Panning with the breaking wave

0.5sec F11

Circular twist of the camera

0.6sec f22

Tiny back and forth movements 1sec F22, blended with the image of the deer later in PS

Tiny back and forth movements

1sec F22, blended with the image of the deer later in PS

Stepped movement lingering on elements between movements.

1.5sec F4

Panning with breaking wave.

0.5sec F11

Various small movements to mimic the water movements.

1/3sec F11

Panning with person’s pace.

1/6sec F10

Horizontal movement, handheld.

1⁄2 sec F11

Various and stepped movements.

1.5 sec F14

Panning with person’s pace.

1/6 sec F10

Panning with person’s pace.

1/5sec F10

Vertical movements.

1/3sec F22

Phone shot. Horizontal movements.

iPhone 12Pro using live photo with long exposure feature

Phone shot using iPhone 12Pro. Horizontal movements.

Live photo using long exposure feature

Phone shot using iPhone 12Pro. Various movements.

Live photo using long exposure feature.


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