Intentional Camera Movement Photography

March 8, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 24 Comments | |
Intentional Camera Movement Photography Image

I'd like to share a secret with you: beyond our ordinary reality lies a hidden world - an invisible dimension as it were - where things look very different from our perception of reality. It's sort of like in the movie "The Matrix", although I'm not talking about robots having taken over the earth or some similarly gloomy scenario. Rather I'm talking about a hidden world of colors, shapes, light and infinite creative possibility. And all it takes to reveal this hidden world is a camera.

By now you're probably wondering where I'm going with this. Let's take a step back, shall we? Photographers usually go to great lengths to keep their cameras still while taking a photo. Not so with a technique called intentional camera movement, or ICM if you're into acronyms. As the term suggests, the idea is to intentionally move the camera during the exposure. I know it sounds like a recipe for disappointment, but with a bit of practice it's actually possible to achieve some pretty cool results.

Intentional Camera Movement Photography

When starting out with intentional camera movement photography it's probably best to do so in the comfort of your own home. Unless, of course, you don't mind gathering a small crowd giving you mildly befuddled looks. Regardless, this type of photography doesn't require sweeping vistas or aesthetically pleasing subjects. What you're looking for is areas of color, lines and contrast. After all, what you'll see in your final image is not so much the thing you photographed but an abstract representation of it. Very often I photograph things around the house, such as a glass of water sitting on my desk or a chair. I find the most unsuspecting things can become something really interesting.

Intentional Camera Movement Photography

Once you've decided what to photograph it's time to get into the technical details. Since this is all about capturing motion, you will want to give yourself some time to actually perform that motion by using an exposure time of around 1/4 to 1/3 of a second, although you could go shorter or longer depending on how fast you move and what look you're after. I usually use a very small aperture for several reasons.

Intentional Camera Movement Photography

First of all, it's nice to have a large depth of field to be able to create some well defined lines and edges. Everything that's out of focus will create an area of color without much detail, so if you use a larger aperture (less depth of field) you'll quickly find that everything becomes one big blur. While I don't mind having blurry, smooth areas in my images as a way of creating negative space, it's nice to have some clearly defined features as well to give the image its focal point.

Intentional Camera Movement Photography

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photos, camera, photo, photography, technique, motion, light, movement, exposure, move, Intentional Camera Movement Photography

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#1 Akos

I really like this idea of this “art” of moving pictures. The lights and the colors are brilliant.

P.S. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

4:45 pm - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#2 Armand Dijcks

@Akos - Thanks, glad you liked it!

4:57 pm - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#3 John Macpherson

This is the kind of thing that you can create in photoshop but its pretty hard actually. I was at it a few hours and didn’t get anything i was satisfied with. What i found was basically its best with starting off with something like you have done above and then using photoshop. Still not totally happy with using post but on some things its impossible to get it right, certainly what you have above, thats for sure. Mix of creative photography and PS imo. Thanks for the post.

8:01 pm - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#4 1 Snap Music!

I do a lot of Intentional Camera Movement Photography and really love it. However, I do it in the context of the underground dance club scene, and I do quite a bit of post-processing to blow the colours out or change them completely.

Please check out my photoblog for some examples of my work! :)

5:06 am - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#5 zorstklamp

Great concept, can’t wait to give it a go and all in the comfort of my home !

7:22 pm - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#6 rob

I’ve been using this technique for some 30 years and I use the results mainly as backgrounds for composites. The creative possibilities are endless.

I prefer those photos to Photoshop effects, because original photos look so much better and more natural than any Photoshop production (don’t get me wrong, I use Photoshop every day - just not for these kinds of photos)...

12:49 am - Thursday, March 10, 2011

#7 Armand Dijcks

Thanks for your comments everyone! @Rob/John - personally I hardly do any post processing in these images, this is pretty much how they come out of the camera. Actually, I don’t even own a copy of Photoshop.

1:56 pm - Thursday, March 10, 2011

#8 Photography Workshops

Beautiful work - we really like the painterly quality of the images and can visualise them printed on a soft rag paper.

10:52 pm - Friday, April 15, 2011

#9 Armand Dijcks

@Photography Workshops - Thanks, I actually offer them printed on metallic paper and on aluminum, which makes the colors really deep and rich. Maybe it’s worth experimenting with other types of paper as well…

10:05 am - Saturday, April 16, 2011

#10 Kento

Nice post.

It would have been kind of fun to know what we were (sort of) seeing in the photos, though.

I’ll make a few wild guesses: The second one was window blinds. The second to last (the green one) was possibly a tulip and leaves. The last one was possibly the floor and wall.

And the first one was a red fox with dandruff running through a snow storm. Well, okay, I actually have no idea, but it was fun making guesses.  :-)

5:13 pm - Sunday, April 17, 2011

#11 Armand Dijcks

@Kento - LOL :-) Not even close! You can actually find the answers at the bottom of this page:

6:55 pm - Sunday, April 17, 2011

#12 Nadja Utrecht

Nice post, nice pictures.

@Rob: I love your suggestion to use this for backgrounds, as an alternative for photoshop effects. Much more artistic / authentic, thanks!

8:27 pm - Friday, April 29, 2011

#13 Aberdeen Photographers

Great ideas, this technique works really well with landscapes

11:10 am - Sunday, May 8, 2011

#14 olurprod

Great post!!, I have been practising my self in new designs on ICM. Let see if you like it.


4:00 pm - Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#15 tubten

There are many variations in Flickr photo, landscape, portrait .......

11:59 pm - Sunday, October 9, 2011

#16 JP Pullos

I’m an online photography teacher and one question I get asked, quite a lot, is “Why would I ever use a slow shutter speed?” I have a few examples in my arsenal to show students but the images in this article are really superb. Awesome article and beautiful images!! Thank you!

9:38 pm - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#17 JP Pullos

I’m posting this on my Facebook page!

9:41 pm - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#18 Achal Bichpuria

Sir….I really liked ur technique. Till now I was doing this just for my fun…but you gave me a name to this. thanks 2 u:-)
I use this for making alphabetical letters and for making some photos more interesting…in the near future I would send u some pics…And I want ur reviews and I also want to become a good photographer.

5:31 pm - Sunday, October 30, 2011

#19 Scott

These images are great! I’m going to start swinging my camera around now.

12:29 pm - Monday, January 2, 2012

#20 Kelly

Thank you for posting this, I’m going to include the article in my Photography coursework (:
The project is for ‘coloured light’ so as you can imagine, this source is perfect :D

Thanks again!

3:12 pm - Friday, January 6, 2012

#21 Katia Mandelli Ghidini

Hi there, I was surfing the Internet and jumped across your site. Fantastic. May I suggest that you have a look at my site? This is my personal project or collection. I am sorry that site for the moment is only in Italian. I will soon get the international (English) version.
But I really wanted to share it with you and send my compliments for your article.
Hope to hearing from you!
Regards from south of Switzerland, old Europe!

5:32 pm - Sunday, May 13, 2012

#22 Javier

Nice text, very interesting!
One of mine:

5:52 pm - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#23 Quintin Lake

I did i series of Christmas Light Abstractions in London mucking around and moving the camera. A friend told me this mucking about was called ICM, and indeed it is!

11:42 am - Saturday, December 22, 2012

#24 Clipping Path

Great designing post.Thanks for sharing it.

3:56 pm - Friday, November 6, 2015