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Exploring Creativity & Abstraction with Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)

Exploring Creativity & Abstraction with Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)

Have you ever thought about abstraction?

Have you ever thought about showing motion in a still image?

If you’ve been curious about these concepts and creating images that are a little different you might be interested in the technique called ICM or Intentional Camera Movement.

With this technique, we intentionally slow down our shutter speed and either wait for something to move through the scene while the shutter is open or move the camera while the shutter is open.

To get started with this technique let’s talk about settings.


Setting your ISO low is helpful to have a clean image. It's best to go with your native ISO and have that as a starting point. Some occasions, perhaps photographing a market at night, could mean going to 800 or 1600 ISO.


Close down your aperture a little bit, maybe go to f/5.6 or f/8. If you are trying this technique during the day, try f/16 or f/22 or farther.

Some lenses may have a limitation as to how far you can close down the aperture.

For that scenario, consider using a neutral density filter to take a little bit more of the light away. A 2, 3, or 4 Stop ND filter can help get the shutter speed just a bit slower to really show some movement.

Shutter Speed

This technique is really all about the shutter speed. As you learn this technique you must experiment.

If you are trying to photograph a person walking through a scene and you want them to be a little blurry, try to get to 1/25s or maybe even 1/8s.

If you want to capture light trails, of cars in a scene, something around 1 - 5 seconds is a good starting point.

Maybe you want to combine the concepts, capture a brief moment and then move your camera, to create the movement of light or the subject.

This example is from Pike Place Market, a 2-second exposure handheld. This was made with a camera that has in-body image stabilization, so getting a bit of sharpness at a slower shutter speed is easier. 

Learn this technique in our 3-Part Hybrid Workshop with John and Lisa Merrill of Merrill Images, Creative Blur with ICM

We are hosting a workshop with John and Lisa Merrill of Merrill Images on this technique in February.

Session 1: February 3 - John and Lisa will lead an online presentation, sharing more in-depth concepts on the technique of ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). This session will be recorded for registered attendees to view, even if they can't make the live event.

Session 2: February 6 - John and Lisa will lead a photowalk, at Seattle Center, walking attendees through this technique in r scenarios.

Session 3: February 13 - John and Lisa will lead an image review and discussion session, via zoom. this will give attendees an opportunity to share the work they created during our in-person outing and receive feedback on it.

We love having these well-rounded experiences available to help you level up your photography skills.

Read more and register for this workshop.

Connect with Glazer's on Instagram & Facebook

Share your work with us via Instagram by using the hashtag #GlazersCamera or join our Glazer's Community Group on Facebook!

Photo Credits 

Images by John and Lisa Merrill of Merrill Images

Photo of John and Lisa by Bruce Hudson. 

Pike Place Market Image by @KateHailey

About the Author

Kate Hailey is a freelance portrait photographer and photo educator based in Seattle, WA.


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