The Blog Post in Which I Explain Why I Like Shaking My Camera At Things
If you’re new to my preferences, you may be wondering what’s up with the blurry photographs.
I suppose we’re more or less trained to believe that photographs are meant to sharply and accurately capture a moment in time. We want to document our lives and what’s happening around us, freeze our memories, prove that we were here.
Using the camera as an artistic tool, a bit like a paintbrush, never really occurred to me until I was introduced to the technique a few years ago. It has a name: “Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)” - aptly titled, if somewhat bland. “The Camera Wiggle” has a livelier vibe to it, no? Alas, I wasn’t in charge of naming it, but I do have fun using it.
Essentially, the camera’s settings are configured so that the exposure time is a little longer than required to freeze the scene. In most cases, I slow down the shutter speed and adjust the aperture/ISO accordingly to ensure enough light, and not too much, is entering the camera. This varies depending on the original conditions and what your intended ‘look’ is, of course, so it takes some experimentation to come up with a formula that works in the moment. Generally, I might start with the shutter speed at ⅛ second and go from there.
Next, as the name suggests, you point your Camera at the scene and Intentionally Move it while it’s making the picture. The slower shutter speed will buy you a bit of time to shake, twist, wiggle, or sway the camera in whatever way you want. Tiny movements, sweeping movements, fast, slow, jerky, whatever - play around and see what happens.
You can throw many of your standard focus rules out the door when you use this trick, though there is an art to it. While swinging the camera around willy-nilly might get you some blurry lines, paying attention to composition, lines, shapes, and tones will get you more pleasing results. The blur, though, is the intended effect here. The quality of the blur in your chosen subject and scene is what’s going to tell your story. Chaotic or calming? Harsh or gentle?
There’s a freedom to this. You’ll end up with a lot of garbage pictures...and some happy accidents. When you gain a bit more experience, you’ll better know which scenes make good candidates, and gain more control over manipulating the camera for your intended effect.
While I tend to work with subjects in nature, this technique can be applied to people and architecture, too - with amazing effects. I’ve seen incredible photos of dancers, city scenes, even weddings - all with a painterly, abstract feel.
I’m still a beginner here - if this technique interests you, be sure to check out the beautiful and diverse work of the photographers featured in the new ICM Photography Magazine.
One other thing: while shooting, be prepared to have passersby look at you strangely or even ask whether you need help (or at least a tripod). It’s all part of the process. Embrace it.
Thanks for sticking with me. See you next week.