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Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures

Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures

Focussed on the sharp, perfectly composed, and exposed shot? Why not try Intentional Camera Movement or multiple exposures to create something unique. You may quite like it.

Most of us as photographers are looking for sharp, perfectly composed and exposed images. It is what we are taught or have learned and so, therefore, try to achieve. Sometimes, though, it’s fun to change this up a bit. Intentional camera movement is exactly that, intentionally moving the camera when taking the shot to produce a creatively blurred image using longer shutter speeds. Multiple exposures are where you set the camera to take a series of multiple shots of the same scene or of varying scenes and elements to make up the resulting image. Your camera’s menu settings should allow you to do this. But if not, there’s a three-step tutorial below.

Intentional Camera Movement

At the time of taking these images, my longest focal length for shooting was the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Lens, so all have been captured at 70mm. The longer the focal length, the shorter exposure required, plus the movement registers more quickly. The wider the lens, the longer the exposure and less movement recorded. You can also add an ND3 stop if conditions allow or depending on the type of effect you are seeking. Most of the exposures shown have shutter speeds of between 1/2th and 1/8th second. My choice of aperture for these was f/5.6, as I wanted slight clarity in any areas with little movement. The final effect you achieve will be up to you and will depend on the conditions when shooting. More blur, longer shutter. Another note I’d like to make is the tonality of the images shown. This is my choice to edit them with these similar tones, as I feel it complements the images and the dreary weather we get here. Plus, I’m a big fan of the artist J.M.W Turner and his works. You can opt for vibrant foliage and flowers or sunsets. It’s entirely up to you.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 1Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 2


Some photographers may tripod their shots and lock off any direction of movement that they do not wish and then take the shot. Think vertical panning of trees and horizontal panning of seascapes.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 3

However, if you handhold the shots, there are multiple directions you can move in; just don’t drop your camera! Flick your wrist, drop your wrist, spin, pan vertically or horizontally while rotating. Add a zoom blur while moving, though takes a bit of practice. All are fun to try, and all will produce varying results. Plus, there is nothing to say that during the editing process you can’t combine multiple exposures to get another unique image. It’s totally up to you.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 4

You will also find a great article and techniques on shooting intentional camera movement here by photographer and Fstoppers writer Jason Parnell-Brookes 

Multiple Exposures

Your camera’s menu should allow you to take multiple exposures of a scene, but if not, keep reading, as I have a brief tutorial on how to achieve similar results below. What I normally do when shooting these is set my camera to aperture priority, although manual works just as well, with the aperture being around the f/8 mark. My Nikon allows me to take up to 10 multiple exposures in an overlaid sequence, shown in the viewfinder, before creating the final JPEG. The in-camera blend mode is set to average. Please note if you are thinking of trying this, shooting in JPEG and not raw will save processing time in the following tutorial. I don’t refocus between images.

Most of the movements I make are only quite slight, overlapping, moving up or down, and rotating slightly. When rotating, I try to imagine a fixed center point of the scene in my viewfinder. I also find that higher-contrast scenes or scenes with varying colors produce better results. These images were photographed using the Viltrox AF 85mm f/1.8 Z Lens for Nikon Z.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 5

Smart Object Blending

If you choose to shoot these singularly instead of in-camera, try to visualize the rotation point of the previous image and don’t keep checking the playback. Smaller movements will result in better images I have found. As I mentioned the Z 7 records 10 multiple images and displays/overlays them in the viewfinder when I shoot, as will most cameras nowadays. It also records them as individual files, and this is what this tutorial is based on.

First, select all your images in Lightroom and then right-click, open in Photoshop as layers.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 6

Next, in Photoshop, select all your layers and convert them to a Smart Object. Don’t auto-align here, as we want them to be as you shot them.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 7

Once this has been completed, go to Layer- Smart Objects – Stack Mode – Meanm and let Photoshop do the rest. Remember if the images are raw files, this could take a minute or so. If you shoot in JPEG, the time will be much shorter. Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 8

The resulting image is in Photoshop.Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 9

From here, just go on to edit your image however you want. Below are both the in-camera image and the resulting Smart Object image using the tutorial above. Yes, there are differences, but you get the idea. Create a Unique Image with Intentional Camera Movement and Multiple Exposures 10

Have Fun

For myself, these techniques were born out of necessity due to one of my dogs being so impatient when out with the camera. I enjoyed shooting when out walking, just recording a scene or location that I would perhaps come back to. However, one of my dogs, Inca, had other ideas and would get up to all sorts of mischief when I stopped to shoot. So, to keep an eye on her and shoot, I would keep walking and do intentional camera movement on the move. She’s a lot better now, and now, I can stop for five minutes or so and do whatever I feel the scene dictates.

If you’ve tried intentional camera movement and multiple exposures, you’ll know that they can be quite rewarding at times and produce something unique. Plus the bonus is that you’re not so caught up with focusing and exposure effectiveness. I’m looking forward to trying multiple exposures with architecture when I head to the city.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a go; it can be fun and breathe a new dimension into your photography.

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Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes

Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes

Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes 11
Your guide: John Dexter
Photography has been John’s passion on and off for 40 years but in the past four years, he has been concentrating on developing his own ICM technique, kickstarting his passion for photography again. To see more, visit and see @johndexter photography on Instagram and YouTube for video tutorials.

ICM (intentional camera movement) photography has changed my life – it is exciting to be able to create unique art that cannot be replicated and to see the world in a new way through your camera. In this feature I will explain how I create my ICM images, as there are many aspects to this technique that can be used. I hope to inspire you and send you in the right direction so that you can eventually develop your own style of ICM photography too.

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Intentional camera movement is a wonderful way to record abstract observations of everyday scenes

Take lots of photos
First and foremost, unlike conventional photography you are free from rules and you can shoot in all weather, any time of day. Good light will sometimes help in your creation of an image, but just work with the light you have. This freedom is what makes it exciting and allows you to create unique art. However, this does not make ICM easy; quite the contrary.

With rules you have guidelines on what makes for a good image, with ICM it is all down to practice, vision and creativity. Take lots of images of the composition that you have chosen. As a rule I will take anywhere from 200 to 500 shots if I think it will make for a good final image. ICM is very random in its results, however proficient you get, so be prepared to have a massive throwaway rate. If you get one good image from this number of shots you are doing well and sometimes you will get nothing. Just remember with digital it costs you nothing to press that shutter. After taking the shot, look at it on the camera screen and assess if that is the look you are after.

If not say to yourself, what do I have to change? It may be your camera settings, camera movement, a longer or wider lens, or a slight movement to improve the composition? I find they always look better on the camera screen than they will do on your computer. Very often after viewing my images on the computer and finding one that I like, I think it can be improved so I will return to where I took the shot and retake it, adjusting my settings or movement.

Getting set up
You don’t have to own an expensive camera or lenses for ICM. After all, we are not after pin-sharp images here, but if you are thinking about selling or exhibiting your work, better gear will pay off when enlarging your images. Best of all you can leave the tripod at home! When it comes to lens choice, the composition will determine the focal length lens you will need, whether it be a wideangle or zoom, but always focus on the subject as you would if it was a conventional shot. A neutral density filter is highly recommended and a worthwhile purchase.

These can help you control the length of the shutter speed in varying lighting conditions. When it comes to selecting your camera settings, I recommend shooting in shutter priority mode for full control over the shutter speed. The required shutter speed for this technique varies between 1/3sec to 2 seconds. This is dependent on the time required to move the camera and the look you’re after. For example, bigger movements will require a longer exposure.
If you find you can’t achieve a slow enough shutter speed owing to bright ambient lighting conditions, that is when you will need to attach a neutral density filter. Typically these filters come in a range of light-reducing strengths.

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A pulling technique enabled me to create the illusion of waves breaking over the groynes

I find that a 6-stop ND filter works well in most scenarios. Exposure is unpredictable with ICM. Learn how to read your histogram so you can see if you are clipping your highlights or shadows and then adjust your exposure compensation accordingly. White balance is not so important, as we can tweak the colours at the editing stage, but I will use anything from sunny, cloudy or even auto. Choosing a composition A good starting point is to look for colours, structures and shapes and experiment thereafter. If it helps, look at other photographers’ work for inspiration. As this technique is so experimental, keep shooting and you’ll soon get a feel for what works for you and after time you will develop your own unique style.

Camera movements

On my ICM journey I’ve found that certain camera movements suit particular compositions. This is only a guide however, remember it is all about experimenting and seeing what works for you. The most important thing with any type of ICM movement, is to try varying shutter speeds and degrees of movement to the camera. Look at your composition and decide what you want the image to look like. In time you will learn what movement to use to achieve that result.

Panning vertically and horizontally
These are the most commonly used movements in ICM photography. A vertical pan is typically used for trees as it follows the line of your subject(s) or a horizontal pan for seascapes and landscapes to emphasise the horizon and separation of elements such as the sky and ground. In these examples, the image below shows a vertical pan – from bottom to top – to capture some moored boats.

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If I had started the movement from the top of the composition, the masts may have disappeared from the top of the frame. My other image (below) is the same scene and I decided to ignore the natural vertical lines created by the masts and instead I’ve panned the camera horizontally.

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In this case it makes no difference if it is left to right or right to left but creates an interesting effect.

A subtle shake
This technique requires a subtle shake of the hand, almost as if you can’t hold the camera still. I occasionally will use this for people or if I just want to soften the image, such as a landscape with trees in the scene.

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This movement involves pulling things into the image like clouds (above) or sunsets. For the latter, I focused on the ruins, pressed the shutter and then moved the camera into the sky, pulling the ruins into the sunset. Another example of this is pulling water over rocks to give the illusion of waves breaking.

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Extreme movements
This involves twisting the camera with a flick of the wrist and moving it left or right, up and down, all at the same time. I don’t use this movement very much but this example (right) is an example of the results – this technique can produce very abstract images and is worth experimenting with.

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Create a curve
For this image example of Stonehenge (below), I have moved the camera in an ark shape from 11 to 1 o’clock to add another dimension to the scene.

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A moving subject
All the other examples show how to add a sense of movement to static subjects. In this example I’ve allowed a moving subject to do some of the work for me. All I’ve done is give the camera a little shake to soften the background and it’s produced a wonderful result.

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