iPhone Photography

ICM Inspiration, Woodlands

Exploring ICM Photography with your iPhone

I am a great believer that it is not the camera that makes the images but the photographer behind the camera. It therefore stands to reason that you can make wonderful images with your phone, just as well as your digital SLR or mirrorless. Sometimes, your phone can even be your best camera choice; it just depends on the situation and what your objective for taking photos is.

Traditionally, Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) photography has been made with digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras. However, with the advent of various apps which can be used (at the moment only on iPhone) the ability to be creative even with just your phone is at your fingertips. There are apps for Android phones. However, I am an iPhone user, so I am not familiar with them. I will, however, give you details of both in this blog post, so regardless of the type of phone you have, you should be able to find an app you can experiment with.

Whilst I love using my Nikon Z6II, without a question, it is when I am using my phone that I feel at my most reactive and free with my photography. I find that my expectations are lower or even non-existent. I make images quickly with my phone in response to things I see: spots of light, colour or compositions. I often use my phone as a sort of sketchbook, trying out an idea and seeing if it works in principle before even getting my camera out of its bag.

woodland images of leaves blurred created by ICM on an iPhone

Recently, I went out for a walk in the woods and made a number of images that I thought would illustrate how creative you can be whilst exploring ICM photography with your phone. And walk you through the app I use.

My app of choice for ICM phone photography is the Slow Shutter Cam app – if you have a look in the app store, it looks like this. It is $1.99, but the best money you will ever spend! I even chose to stick with the iPhone purely because of this app; that is how much I love it!

Both of these apps do offer similar user experiences I believe. With a couple of possible settings that offer a variety of ways to create ICM images with your phone.

Just a little bit of info on settings before I show you some examples. It’s a fairly easy app to navigate – but within the settings, the most important choice to make is between the ‘motion blur’ and the ‘light trail’ settings. These two options offer very different results. These two images illustrate perfectly the difference.

On the left, you have the light trails setting – I love it for the painterly and quite abstract results it gives. It picks up on the light in the image in a much stronger way and accentuates it within the image, hence the ‘light trails’ name. On the right, you have the ‘motion blur’ setting. This I liken more to what you can create in camera. It creates a soft, whimsical feel to the images.

Below, you can see a screenshot of the settings for each mode and what I normally use. I use the bulb setting for the shutter speed, then you are fully in control of how long you want the image to take. I love using the phone because you can see exactly what you are creating and what is happening. So using the bulb setting allows you to create and paint your ICM image and then stop when you are happy with it. Previously I used to use 2 seconds, and found that was quite a nice speed to work with, if you want a specific time to work with.

On the ‘motion blur’ setting you alter the ‘Blur strength’ according to how much blur or detail you want to achieve – it’s a personal thing, so have a play with this. On the ‘light trails’  setting you play with the ‘light sensitivity’. I like it at around ¼ so I can play with longer shutter speeds. If you have it at full (1) I find you get a lot of light into your image very quickly – so you can almost think of it as the ISO setting on this app.

I tend to leave the ISO on auto at all times.

There are various other settings, but these are the most important to experiment with.

One important note is to say – that when you download the app – make sure you go into your app and click on the three little stripes – there, you can choose the image size/resolution and photo aspect ratio. I myself fell foul of this early on because the default is set to the lowest resolution possible! I choose the 12MB setting; then, I create good-quality images that can be used for printing or further editing.

So, all the techie stuff is out the way; let’s have a look at some images I created today.

Getting up close and personal, I loved how these almost fluorescent green leaves were dancing in the breeze and had a play. First, with the light trails setting, then the motion blur. 

The light trails image was 1.4 seconds. The Motion blur was 3 seconds. I like both of these images, but the light trails image has managed to separate and hold the form of the leaves a little better. I used a wiggly movement to shape the leaves. I get a little more feel of the movements from the motion blur image though, with this image I moved the camera up and down.

I just loved all the black trunks, like little match sticks in this image. The light was falling on certain areas within the image, which I hoped to pick up and bring some colour to the image. 

The light trail image was 2.4 seconds. The Motion blur was 2.7 seconds. I like both of these images. The light trails image is very crisp, almost abstract and bright, but looks a bit wishy-washy in its colour; I used a movement that went up the tree trucks and then back down. The motion blur has a lovely soft feel, and I love the richness of the colours; for this image, I swept the camera upwards slowly.

For these last images, I just wanted to capture the green and the light and shadow on the floor of the woodland.

The light trail image was 1.7 seconds. The Motion blur was 3,3 seconds. I like both of these images. The light trails image really captures the way the light was playing through this image. I added a slight wave to my camera movement to add energy to the feeling of organic movement. The motion blur has a lovely soft feel, although I like the rich colours. SOC is quite dark, and the light on the floor is very subtle.

Hopefully, with this little walk-through of my experience using this app in the woods, you can see how the two different settings work. This is a really useful app and one I would highly recommend if you have an iPhone. 

I will leave you with one last image that captured the way the bright sun was pushing through the canopy and lighting the bracken to gold below on the forest floor.

– Charlotte Bellamy

ICM - Intentional Camera Movement with light trails
A black and white photo of Charlotte Bellamy

Hi, I'm Charlotte

Creative Artist