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What is ICM Photography?

Posted by Johann Montet on

ICM stands for Intentional Camera Movement.

It is not a new trend in photography but dates back to the mid 20th century when photographers like Ernst Haas experimented by moving the camera whilst taking their exposure.

The result is an abstract rendition of the scene, similar to a painting from the Impressionism movement of art.

A lot of ICM photographers mention the works of Claude Monet and William Turner as an inspiration.


From the outsider it looks like the photographer doesn’t know what he/she is doing and randomly shakes or drops or flings the camera around.

Whilst there is a definitely an element of randomness and luck, the technique requires a lot of perseverance and hard work from the part of the photographer until finally the desired effect is achieved.

I relate the technique to a painter first sketching the desired composition on the canvas and then painting in the colours in successive layers, often going over the same area until he/she is happy with the final artwork.

Thanks to today’s instant feedback through the lcd screen at the back of the camera, the photographer can immediately change the settings or movement type, amplitude or speed until his/her vision is achieved.

It is not uncommon to take around 300-400 shots of a scene until one is happy with one exposure.

When coming to a scene the photographer must compose the shot in the same manner as in classical photography, but knowing that the end result will be an abstract artwork, the artist will have to focus more on colours, contrast and shapes.

The beauty of this technique is that you can come back to the same scene multiple times and come up with totally different takes on it.

Each scene will require different techniques. For instance vertical subjects like trees or people usually benefit from vertical camera movements as opposed to subject like seascapes benefit more from horizontal movements.

Circular movements, shakes, zooming in and out, curves, moving camera in and out or any combination of those will give you different results.

The wider the focal length the more movement is required to achieve the desired result.

In order to take ICM photography, I use long exposures between ¼ of a seconds and 6-8 seconds depending on the focal length used.

I use Wine Country Camera 6 and 10 stops ND filters during the day but also love taking shots well before sunrise with a naked lens.

2020 has been a challenging year for everybody in so many ways but through all the restrictions imposed on us, like so many photographers, I have been challenged to see the world in other ways and discover new techniques and ICM was the technique that stood out.

I would like to thank the great Dr Les Walkling for inspiring me to look further into this genre of photography during a wonderful week-long photographic workshop in the Daintree in 2019

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