As we progress our journey of photography, the “proper” camera settings and way of “seeing” become ingrained in us. On one level, we need this to happen so as to cement in our minds, the technical aspects of taking a photo. This allows us to point the camera and get a well exposed and well-composed shot without fumbling with the controls. Now we can react to the ever-changing moment.
However, this way of working can become so hard-coded in us, that we lose sight of any spark of creativity we had when we first started to take pictures. The pursuit of technical perfection becomes never-ending.
You can end up taking photos that are technically excellent but lack your own personal interpretation. Pictures without soul. Photography becomes nothing more than a technical exercise.
While it is absolutely vital to know all the technical stuff, I believe it’s equally important to spend as much time and effort studying the scene in order to come up with our own interpretation of it. For this, you need to look closely, both inside and outside.
Sometimes, instead of looking for a picture of the scene, we need to look for the story. Once you figure this out, the picture will follow.
Why How can we do this?
What the heck is ICM? ICM stands for intentional camera movement. It’s been around for quite some time and is a way for people to express themselves creatively using their camera. The idea is to introduce some movement during the exposure in order to capture an “artistic” interpretation of the scene.
Why Do it?
Simple answer – why not? As photographers, we are constantly under pressure to attain the highest possible technical standard. And this is no harm – you should always strive to get the very best images you can. Commercial markets demand it and anything that is less than 100% technically perfect will end up in the recycle bin. As cameras get ever more sophisticated, this technical bar is lifted even higher.
However, as photographers, we all started out taking photographs in order to express some kind of creativity, to portray the world the way we see it – didn’t we?
And as photographers, we all shoot personal projects in between our commercial work.
Using ICM amongst other techniques gives us this vital time to explore and develop our own personal style.
I believe this, in turn, feeds into our commercial work and helps to carve out our unique brand.
How to do it?
It’s quite simple really. Leave your tripod at home and learn to love longer exposures. Generally, a photoshoot will start off in the usual way. You survey the scene and try to work out what you believe is a pleasing composition.
Once you have established this, dial in a longer than normal exposure. I often start with one second. During the exposure move the camera slightly. You might find it easier if you begin the movement and then trip the shutter. After this, you can start to vary the exposure time to see what different effects you can get.
Move the camera in the direction of what it is you are shooting. Not much – only a few millimetres or so. For example, if you’re shooting trees, move the camera up or down. This will elongate the tree trunks and give the whole scene a sort of painted look. As usual, it helps if you have some nice light.
Are there any pitfalls?
Sure, there are loads. With the shutter open for so long there’s a danger that your image will be over-exposed and you’ll end up with a mass of pure white patches in your shot – not desirable. Sometimes you may like this but it won’t look good if you print it out. You can always compensate by using a smaller aperture or a filter. In this shot, I used a 6 stop filter to hold back the light.
Also, many of the shots you take will be total rubbish. But all you need is that one “keeper” that will make the photoshoot worthwhile. And of course, most of the people standing around you will think, “what the hell is wrong with him”. If you’re like me, you’ll have learned to deal with this a long time ago! 🙂
When to use it?
ICM takes a little getting used to but after a while, you’ll find yourself really getting into it and it becomes quite cathartic. Use it anytime, but especially when faced with a familiar scene, a cliché scene – and you want to capture something a little different but something that makes the scene fairly recognisable too. Try to capture something that conveys the essence of the place or thing you are shooting.
Some people will view it as lazy photography, accidental photography or simply, not photography at all. But if we are all meant to follow the same set of rules, then change, innovation, and beautiful new things would never happen.
So don’t be afraid to express yourself and use your camera to do those things that you initially bought it to do. If you have any experience of this or other interesting techniques, I’d love to hear. Do leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading this far.