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The Best Equipment for Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) Photography

Intentional camera movement (ICM) photography is a unique approach to photographic image-making. Rather than aiming for pin-sharp images, ICM photography encourages a more experimental approach. And just like most modes of photography, ICM is best realized with certain kinds of photographic equipment. Here, we'll take a brief look at the best gear for achieving compelling ICM photography.

ICM intentional camera movement photography forest gum tree black and white megan kennedy
Megan Kennedy

What is ICM Photography?

ICM photography is a type of photography that embraces camera motions driven by the photographer during an exposure. As the camera records an image, an ICM photographer may shake, sweep, zoom, pan, swing and/or rotate a camera to build up blurred renderings of an environment or subject. ICM photography isn't new, but it has become more popular over the last few years, likely due in part to the instant feedback digital technology grants as well as a desire to merge photography and expressive gesture. You can see an in-depth guide to the ICM technique here.

What Equipment is Needed for ICM Photography?

A camera body and corresponding lens, a secure neck strap and a Neutral Density (ND) filter are the most basic requirements for an ICM photography shoot. Using a tripod is an optional extra, as it can help create more uniform ICM imagery. In truth, any level of camera equipment can work to create ICM photography. However, certain photographic equipment has advantages over others.

What is the Best Lens for ICM Photography?

From macro to telephoto, lenses come in a wealth of configurations. But like most facets of photography, ICM capitalizes on certain lens types to maximise the potential of effective imagery. While ICM photography can be made with practically any lens/body combination, I find a wide-angle zoom offers the most versatility and creative scope.

ICM intentional camera movement photography forest gum tree black and white megan kennedy
Megan Kennedy

Using a wide-angle lens for ICM photography allows for more of a scene to be recorded in an image - which is good for cultivating busy and immersive renderings. Standard wide-angle zoom lenses like the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm, or the Sony 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS are good examples of lenses with plenty of zoom capacity and a wide angle of view.

In addition to creating expansive perspectives, zoom lenses also offer the option of creating a zoom burst effect, as well as isolating specific areas within a field of view, which is useful for panning or abstracting detail. The zoom burst exploits the adjustment of the zoom mid-exposure to create an impactful burst of lines often radiating from a central point while panning involves moving the camera along with a travelling subject to cultivate a sense of motion.

The Best Camera Bodies for ICM Photography

The requirements for a camera body in ICM photography are pretty straightforward - you'll need a camera with an adjustable shutter speed and manual mode. These settings allow for the adjustment of exposure to create deliberately blurred effects. However, another useful camera capability to consider when seeking to make ICM photography is the drive mode. Drive modes are the shooting modes in a camera that dictate the speed between exposures made while the shutter button is depressed. Single shooting sets the camera to take one image per shutter button depression, whereas continuous shooting mode takes photos in succession at a selected speed.

While some cameras offer only one single-shot mode, other cameras allow for different continuous shooting speeds. For example, in low continuous shooting, the camera will take multiple shots, but at a slower pace - useful for making a fluid sequence of ICM images. High-speed continuous shooting is good for creating a suite of images with much less of a gap between exposures. However, it's important to note that creating ICM photography relies on the use of slower shutter speeds, so the use of a camera with an extremely high FPS (frames per second) rate in ICM photography is not necessarily useful.

Note: The speed of the memory card can also impact the fps rate. The faster the images can be transferred from buffer to card, the longer you can shoot in a continuous shooting mode.

Should I Use a Tripod for ICM Photography?

It may be counter-intuitive, but tripods can be surprisingly useful in ICM photography. In my experience the majority of ICM photography I make is hand-held, meaning that I simply hold the camera in my hands to take ICM photographs. That said, using a tripod can encourage greater consistency in ICM imagery, where the variables of gesture are visibly reduced by the sturdier tripod structure.

Much of the beauty of ICM photography lies in chance and the inconsistencies of physicality. But if a more linear and repeatable effect is desired, mounting the camera on a tripod with the capacity to pan in all directions is the best bet. For a middle-ground approach, try using a monopod or gimbal.

Additional Equipment for ICM Photography

Other optional equipment for ICM photography includes a polarising filter or a 2-stop to 4-stop neutral density (ND) filter. A polarizing filter is used in photography to darken skies, manage reflections, or suppress glare. Polarizing filters also reduce the light passed through to the sensor by about one to three stops depending on what filter angle is set. This means that the longer exposures required for ICM photography can be performed without overexposing the scene.

ND filters also cut down on the intensity of light reaching a sensor, facilitating a longer exposure time while avoiding overexposure in bright conditions. The ND is most effective at blocking light, making it more ideal for ICM photography, while the polarizer is best at intensifying overall colour in an exposure.


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Megan Kennedy is a writer and multidisciplinary artist based in Canberra, Australia. More of her work can be viewed on her website or Instagram.


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