Unlock A Hidden World Of Invisible Light With Digital
Digital infrared photography has been
developed and evolved from infrared photography. It has been around for
a long time, but traditionally has been both expensive
and difficult to master.
Very sensitive and advanced equipment was needed such as Kodak's
special black and white film. You also had to contend
with loading the films in total darkness. Some other things also had to
be taken into consideration such as
exposure bracketing and special developing. The whole process was a
little bit hit-or-miss!
Today, digital infrared photography is much easier to get right and
much less expensive to master than the traditional infrared shooting.
This is very good news, because with this kind of photography you can
make some fantastically dramatic and unique works.
You have probably seen these types of photographs before and you may
have wondered how they were made. Tree leaves that are
white or nearly so, extremely dark skies,
the absence of shadow where it should be, water that looks like it's a
smooth mirror, glowing skin or people with monster
eyes are among the tell-tale effects and stunning beauty of digital
Being able to achieve this kind of photographic work can add an entire
new dimension to your portfolio, whether you do it just for yourself or
Can Your Camera Be Used For Digital Infrared Photography?
Quality digital cameras are widely available and affordable these days.
Most come with the ability to shoot infrared photography.
To test whether your camera has this ability, use a remote
control, such as the one your television uses.
When you look at the remote control through your camera and press a
button on it, you should see a light flashing
on the remote control through the preview screen on your camera. If you
can see this, then your camera is ready to take infrared photography
If you've got an DSLR camera such as a Canon or Nikon, you may have to
actually take a photograph of the remote control as you press a button.
Afterwards look at the picture to see if there is a light. The short
film below explains how to do this.
Equipment Do I Need?
The first thing you need will be an infrared filter. It's recommended
that you get one of the Wratten filters, which include 87, 87C, 88A,
and 89B. You can buy them online at a reasonable price from Adorama,
Some photographers recommend the Cokin filter system, especially for
DSLR cameras. These are expensive and unless you are a professional
photographer, you can get Hoya
filters from Amazon which are a lot cheaper and do a similar
If you need help choosing which one is best for your camera, go along
to your local camera shop and they can help you find and fit the best
one for your camera.
If you have a point-and-shoot digital camera, you'll want an adapter
tube and a step-up ring so that the infrared filter can be used . DSLR
cameras do not need these adapters.
The IR filter will block out visible light but allows the infrared
wavelength of light to penetrate into your camera's sensor. When you
look through it with the naked eye you can see next to nothing except
the very brightest objects.
In addition to your infrared filter equipment, it's highly recommended
that you use a tripod. The tripod is needed to keep your camera as
still as possible, during a longer than usual shutter-speed, so that
your photos don't come out blurry.
Do I Take An IR Photograph?
It tends to be the case that infrared photographs come out best when
you have a very bright overhead sun. If you are new to digital infrared
photography, you should probably start off with taking shots that
contain a lot of foliage, so you can get a feel for how to produce
certain desired effects.
There are lots of ways for obtaining different effects. Once the IR
filter is on your camera, you'll not be able to see an image. The best
way to approach the shot is to set everything up and compose the
picture. Just before you are ready to take the shot, screw the infrared
filter onto the lens. The video below explains how to take great black
and white infrared photos.
Some experienced photographers recommend that you shoot in RAW
(adjusting beforehand for contrast, sharpness, white balance,
saturation, etc). This will produce a very fine image (assuming an ISO
setting of 100 or 200) that can be manipulated more than JPEG.
If you would like to go for an old black and white, grainy photographic
image, it's recommended that you alter the photograph in Photoshop.
When taking your shot, ISO settings can be fooled around with by you to
achieve different effects; but you'll have to experiment to see what
Many digital infrared photographers just like to leave their ISO
setting at 200 so that they don't ever worry about getting
Remember that the lower your ISO setting (100), the less sensitivity to
light that you get, and the finer the grain of the photograph. Too much
light sensitivity results in fuzzy imagery.
White balance is also extremely important in your pre-shoot settings,
as you are using a filter that blocks visible light.
Foliage and grass reflect a huge amount of white, so the best way to
calibrate your white balance is to do it manually using previews of
these objects as your guide. Manually setting it also gives you greater
control. Follow your particular camera's manual for how to manually set
To further enhance your digital infrared photography after the fact of
the shooting, you can use color space technology to alter them prior to
publishing them. It is recommended that you use Adobe RGB for doing
this. Ghostly and pastel color effects can be achieved with this
As you practice more with digital infrared photography, you'll learn
more tricks and more subtle techniques. It's a magnificent form of art
and can provide you with deep self-satisfaction.
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