Intentional Camera Movement Photography

Intentional camera movement zoom blur with a pause to create double exposure effect.
Zoom blur with pause – f/10 – 1.3 sec.

Intentional camera movement or ICM, is a style of photography where the resulting image is intentionally out of focus or blurred. This can mean that portions of the image are un-sharp or blurry, or possibly the entire image. This is different than brokeh images, where in general, the background of the image is out of focus. This tends to force focus on the primary subject in the image. Brokeh typically uses a very shallow DOF. Intentional camera movement does not rely on any specific DOF or aperture.

I find that although there are many ways to apply the ICM concept in your photos, there are three basic methods to get started with. Once you have some experience with these three styles of intentional camera movement, you will likely find it easy to explore combinations and other methods.

ICM Panning blurs are an easy start

Panning Blurs tends to be a style of intentional camera movement that comes a little more naturally for many people. Have you ever followed a moving subject with your camera to get a shot? Maybe you have done this with a bird or car? Following a moving subject like this to get an image is panning. Normally when panning, I want to try and freeze motion. To do this, I would want to use a faster shutter speed and possibly higher ISO also.

Intentional camera movement panning blur image of autumn grass
Panning blur of autumn grass – f/8 – 1/3 sec.

For ICM, I don’t want to freeze motion for a sharp image. I do want to pan my camera, and I want to intentionally blur the image. To do this, all I need to do is slow my shutter speed. How slow my shutter speed needs to be is relative to the speed of the subject. If the subject is moving very fast, like a fighter jet, a slow shutter speed may be 1/50th or maybe 1/100th. If the subject is slower like a car on a city street, my slow shutter speed may be 1/25th or slower.

You can also create wonderful panning ICM images using stationary subjects. Just pan your camera horizontally or vertically with a slow shutter speed. I typically slow my shutter down to around 1/10th for stationary subjects.