Challenge #6: Creative use of ICM   

This Challenge invites you to throw caution to the wind, go against the usual need for a steady hand in your photography and experiment with Intentional Camera Movement (ICM).  Move your camera while the shutter is open and explore the freedom and range of creative opportunities this offers you as a photographer.

ICM is a creative and highly subjective form of art and as with any photographic technique, the results might not be to everyone’s taste. However, it’s definitely worth having a go, whether you’ve tried it before or not as it’s relatively easy to take some striking shots; it can certainly be used to create some interesting and unique images, as well as being a lot of fun.

Dornoch Beach, Sue Hoggett
Patriotic impressions, Sue Hoggett

What is ICM?

ICM is a photographic technique in which the camera is moved as the image is being taken. Because you are freed from the need to get sharp details, you can focus more on lines, form and colour in your images. You can even use ICM to capture a cluttered scene that wouldn’t normally work as it allows you to blend colours and shapes to create an interesting abstract shot. Since every shot will be unique, familiar scenes that you may have photographed many times can take on a new and different lease of life.

How to take ICM images

The good news is that to work with ICM you do not need very advanced or sophisticated gear and you can even create ICM with a phone. If you don’t have a manual mode on your phone, there are third party apps available, such as ‘Slow Shutter Speed’ for iPhones and several options for Android (see Play Store).

The most important factor when using ICM is the shutter speed. It needs to be long enough to capture significant motion blur, which can mean anything from 1/3 or 1/2 second exposure times up to exposures of several seconds.

Because of the slow shutter speeds, shooting in low-light conditions is ideal for ICM, so you capture your images both indoors or outdoors. On a bright day, it can be more difficult to achieve the necessary long shutter speeds, even at the lowest ISO setting and the smallest aperture (highest f-stop number). If you have one, you could try using a polarizing filter or a neutral density (ND) filter, or even a combination of both. A polarizing filter can help boost colours and cut down on reflections and glare, and can reduce up to 2 stops the light that reaches your sensor. You can add ND filters on top.

To start with, it is probably best to shoot in Shutter Priority mode. Set the shutter speed to around half a second and turn the ISO to the lowest available setting on your camera. Once you have had a go with this shutter speed, you can try increasing exposure times by using a combination of low-light and/or filters if you have them. Additional tips: Use manual focus and turn off autofocus to prevent the camera searching for focus during exposure, and if you’re using a lens that has image stabilization, remember to turn it off.

Moving the Camera

The way in which you choose to move the camera is entirely up to you as there are no rules. You could move the camera vertically, horizontally or diagonally during the exposure. You can also create a spiral image by rotating the camera 360 degrees, or change the focal distance on a zoom lens to create a zoom effect. The outcome will be different depending on whether the movements are smooth or jerky, fast or slow.  Once you’ve had a practice, why not try combining two or more of these movements, or just wave the camera around!

Hand holding your camera gives you a great deal of freedom and flexibility, and a tripod isn’t necessary unless you specifically want a smoother movement, perhaps to keep a straight horizon. Make sure that you are feeling bold, as really subtle movements can look like camera shake.

What and where to take your shots

Look for locations that offer striking colours, lines, or patterns. Trees provide clean parallel lines and nature often provides vibrant colours, as do the colourful umbrellas in the image below. Trees work well with vertical movements, either from the top-down or from the bottom-up. Seascapes on the other hand can be good subjects for side-to-side camera movement in line with the horizon.

Kaleidoscope, Sue Hoggett
Woodland scene, Sue Hoggett

You may find it useful to set your camera to shoot in Continuous Shooting Mode so that you can take a series of shots in quick succession, while moving the camera in a particular direction.

Final Tips

Keep in mind the basic principles of photography such as composition and exposure and, although much of the landscape will become abstract, it may help to have at least one element of the landscape sharp or at least recognizable in the final image.

Don’t worry if you do not get the effect you’d like straight away as there’s quite a lot of trial and error involved. Make sure you have large capacity memory cards available, and don’t rush to delete shots that you feel haven’t quite worked out as you expected – you never know, you might find something there that you like after all when you look back at them.

This technique allows you to express yourself through photography, so we hope you’ll give it a go. Get creative and have fun. We’ll look forward to seeing some exciting and unique landscape images.

Submitting your images

  • You may submit up to five ICM images no later than midnight on Sunday 28 June to, ideally by WeTransfer.
  • Please stick to the guidelines for submission as set out for ‘Challenges’ under Submitting Images on the website, and ask for help if needed. In particular:
    • Resize your images to a maximum of 1600 pixels wide or 1200 pixels high, and limit the size of each image to 500kb.
    • Include a title and your name in the metadata exactly as requested for Challenges under Submitting Images.

If you’re not a Club member, you are more than welcome to join in this challenge. Please feel free to send us up to five images and we’ll post our favourites in the Gallery.


With thanks to Richard Beech for the ideas, inspiration and images for this Challenge.