a26 June 2012

Tutorial: Introduction to Infrared Photography

During the last weekend I finally managed to play with infrared photography. So I decided to share some thoughts on it. I'm a beginner in terms of IR but I think I'll love it. And I think many of you will love it too.

First thing is preparing your camera to capture infrared light. As the camera sensors filter out infrared rays you have to either:
  1. Modify your camera so it allows entering infrared rays. It includes removing special filter "protecting" camera sensor from capturing IR. After this modification you will be able to use your camera normally, view the world in IR even in Live View mode, use fast shutter speeds etc... but you won't be able to capture normal (non-IR) photos anymore.
  2. Buy special filter which allows only infrared light to go through. You loose many benefits of the modified camera but you can still capture normal photos.
As modifying the camera didn't sound like a good idea to me (as it would mean that "normal" photography won't be possible) I decided to get the IR filter. I chose Hoya Infrared R72 filter. The R72 means that only rays with lengths longer than 720nm will go through. There are other filters allowing other ray lengths (like 900nm or 660nm) to pass. 720nm is the border of the visible spectrum (i.e. light our eyes can see) and the beginning of the infrared range.

Taking shots in IR doesn't differ much from taking regular shots apart from a few difficulties - you don't see anything through the viewfinder (unless you have modified camera)! Only complete blackness (because the filter is almost completely black and doesn't allow visible light). So it's even more difficult than in night photography albeit a bit similar.
  1. You have to compose the image prior to putting on the IR filter. Otherwise you won't see anything. It's a great benefit of the modified camera because you would be able to see everything through a viewfinder in that case.
  2. You have to focus manually. You can either focus prior to putting on a filter or focus on infinity.
  3. It is necessary to use longer exposure times so the IR rays will get "recorded" (remember about the filter over the camera sensor). Eg. photo above was taken with 13s exposure at ISO 800 and f/10.0.
  4. Another thing is white balance. You have to use custom settings if you don't want to get completely red photo. Take a photo of a sunlit grass (because green grass reflects IR pretty well so it is white in terms of infrared) and set it as your custom white balance setting.
After taking a shot even with correct white balance you might have issues with your photo after opening it in Lightroom or Photoshop but this I will cover in a few days.

All this might sound a bit difficult at first but believe me the end result is worth it. Let's look at another IR photo I took.

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