Using Lines and Shapes to Compose for ICM Photography

//Using Lines and Shapes to Compose for ICM Photography

When we shoot blur, we are taking away that element most people rely on when looking at photography – sharpness.  One of my favorite ways to compose ICM shots is using lines and shapes as guides for my movement. They also provide elements of clarity or sharpness that make the image much more relatable than an image that is 100% blurry.  Just a little sharp focus here or there – following a line or shape within the frame – adds reality to a shot that has been altered by movement.

If we add a spot or two of clarity, we get wonderful energy of contrast between sharpness and blur.


The shot above was planned around the window shape which would serve as a frame within my frame when my walker passed through.  I also liked the echo of the rectangular case on the right as well as smaller echoes of the same shape on the left. Reflections would add strength.  Most importantly, I chose a quick vertical motion for the camera to gather time and blur along that axis. The result was an image with strong verticals almost perfectly sharp contrasting the softness of blur.

Reflections of shapes are an added pleasure when I find them.


In this shot, long wooden fishing poles pierced the sky and the hut was nicely mirrored in the water.  The rich colors of the sunset were why I was there but it was these shapes that led me to choose this particular spot to shoot.  I knew I would follow those vertical lines to find some sharpness.  It doesn’t take much – just a spot here or there to let the viewer rest their eye.  It’s subliminal but important in most ICM shots.

Chicago was filled with wonderful buildings and I wanted to capture a couple of favorites a bit differently.  I walked around until the perspective lined everything up the way I wanted.


I used the lines again to project my motion. My perspective allowed me to show the lines and shapes clearly, in a blur.  It was worth taking the time to plan and execute the shot. I knew I wanted the shapes to maintain their integrity so the motion was held in check – just enough to elongate the blur but not so much that I lost the distinction between the buildings.  

Driving at sunset – racing to find a foreground – netted this shot of an old silo along the railroad track.


The rails were gleaming in the reflected sunlight and were perfect vanishing lines to the silo which had a great shape to contribute to the shot.  The vertical motion gave the rails more substance while I elongated the building and picked up a shape in the sky.  A good sunset is always worthy of a great foreground. 

These boats, with their masts reaching into the sky and falling into the water, were a natural draw.


The motion followed the masts and was kept minimal because I also wanted to get the details of the rigging. Reality is altered here only slightly.  It’s enough though to cause a viewer to lean in and see things differently.

I was drawn to repeating ridges as they layered on the horizon.  I knew I wanted a longer exposure to gather echoes and whispers.


I swept along the ridgeline horizontally slightly back and forth to emphasize the ridges and multiply their shapes a bit. The back-and-forth motion also kept the sun from blurring completely into the surrounding sky.

ICM photography has to have excellent bones.  A poor shot only gets worse in a blur.  Successful ICM work has to be founded on photography that has excellent composition.  Looking closely at what you are shooting – what the lines and shapes are telling you – makes the decision on the timing and motion much more likely to be successful.

If you are just starting to play with ICM, keep things simple.  Find a subject and stay awhile.  Keep your shutter at 1/13th second as it will be more controllable. As you try different moves, you will see the results and learn what is possible.  You will be training your eye and muscle memory to help you plan more successfully as you progress to new subjects and expand your shutter speed and different moves.

Shooting ICM makes you pay attention to details and composition.  Otherwise, it doesn’t work. It’s this mindfulness that spreads into all of your photography – making any genre you shoot better than ever.

I have two books on ICM that give much more detail on how to achieve the results you want.  

Available through my website.  Clicking on a book cover will get you a sneak preview of what’s inside.

By |2022-02-08T08:55:13-08:00February 8th, 2022|Categories: Art of Photography|Comments Off on Using Lines and Shapes to Compose for ICM Photography

About the Author:

Photographer – Author - Speaker Roxanne is a lifelong artist across many mediums including textiles, paints, stained glass, and pottery. About 10 years ago she decided to embrace photography on a more exclusive basis – taking time to explore all of the potential her imagination could conjure. – where you will find more photography and information on my instructional and travel series photography books.