How to do ICM: Intentional Camera Movement

Learning creative techniques to use in your photography can be extremely freeing and ICM or intentional camera movement is one of those that lets you think outside of the box.  When you are first learning photography keeping your camera still is one of the first things you are taught.  But when you let go of that constraint you can create stunning works of art.

What is ICM or Intentional Camera Movement

Intentional camera movement is when you intentionally move the camera as the image is being taken.  There are generally two types of ICM.  The first is panning.  This is where you lock on to a subject that is moving and move the camera with their motion.  This will create a look where your subject is sharp and in focus but the background looks like it is moving or blurry.  The second technique is more abstract (it doesn’t really have a name), but involves moving the camera while taking a landscape photo.  So now let’s talk about how to do ICM.

How To Do ICM or Intentional Camera Movement

Because there are two types, I will explain how to do each and give and show you an example of each.


Panning is a form of ICM that involves movement while focused on a subject.  This takes a lot of trial and error, but who doesn’t love just taking the time to play with their camera?  First let’s talk about settings.  The most important setting is shutter speed.  You will want the subject to stay in sharp focus while they are in motion.  It’s kind of like pacing a car.  But you still need a slow enough shutter speed to create the motion blur of the background.  Here is an example of panning.

ICM panning photo of girl playing lacrosse

In this photo my shutter speed is set to 1/25.  I am in manual mode for this photo, although using shutter speed priority mode may be best when you are just starting out with panning so you don’t have to worry about the other settings.  You can see in the photo that she is in focus, if I had brought my shutter speed down just a tad she would probably be in better focus.  The background and even her lacrosse stick are all in motion blur.  To take this photo I had her stand still while I kept the focus on her and then had her start to run.  As she was running I was following her movement with the camera.  This is what creates the panning photo.  

Here are a few tips for what shutter speeds to use.  Remember that these are just guides and really the best results come from trial and error.

  • Fast moving subjects such as cars a shutter speed of 1/125 is good, just remember to be quick with your camera movement
  • For moderate moving subjects a shutter speed of 1/60 is best
  • For slow moving subjects a shutter speed of 1/10 is best
  • It is best to do these shots with a tripod so the movement of the camera can be smooth

Abstract ICM

I call it abstract ICM because I don’t really think it even has a name!  With this technique you aren’t looking to get anything in focus so this is generally used for landscape photos.  The only thing this technique requires is a slow shutter speed, and the speed you choose really depends on the look you are going for.  Again, this is probably where you want to jump out of manual mode to shutter speed priority mode so that the camera will figure out aperture and ISO for you to get a properly exposed photo.  This is also a technique where you will want to use a tripod.  You really want the movement to be either vertical or horizontal but not both.  So unless you have surgeons hands use the tripod.  Here are a couple examples of abstract ICM.  

Both the photos above where done using a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds.  Yes you read that correct!  I wanted to create significant motion blur to create a dreamy beach scene.  You may be wondering how I did this during the day at the beach?  First it was towards the end of the day during sunset.  Second I used an ND filter so that less light would be getting into my camera, considering the long shutter speed.  An ND filter is basically a filter that blocks light in camera stops.  This particular one is a variable ND filter so I can dial in the amount of light blockage I am looking for.  The filter is an absolute must if you are trying to do ICM during the day!  

To take the actual photos I put my camera on a tripod and set the shutter speed to 1.6 seconds.  After I clicked the shutter button I slowly panned my camera from left to right.  That is what creates that dreamy movement you see in the photo.  I have seen other artists’ work that do vertical panning in a forest and it looks absolutely stunning.  Here are some examples of beautiful landscape ICM.

Intentional Camera Movement Conclusion

As you can see above, ICM can be a really fun way to play with your camera and add dimension to your photography.  The key take-aways for ICM are to use a slow shutter speed, a tripod, and repetition.  Trial and error are key to this technique because it is so abstract.  I encourage you to take a photo walk and give it a try, you may create works of art that you will frame for your walls!  Let me know if you try it and tag me @livensapcreate in your Instagram photos so I can see what you create!

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