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Intro to Digital Infrared Photography
Infrared photography is a wonderful way to broaden your photographic horizons and expand your creativity! Nothing can quite compare with the surreal factor of bright white foliage, a dark sky and how beautifully infrared light is reflected and absorbed by different surfaces. Infrared photography can give you a new outlet for artistic expression by allowing you to shoot traditional subjects in novel and interesting ways. A color photograph converted to black and white is quite different from a black and white infrared image.
When you use a special filter with your digital camera, the camera becomes capable of recording infrared light. You can visualize the effects of infrared light—seeing it in your mind’s eye. The camera can capture invisible light, transforming ordinary landscapes into something magical. The world is incredibly beautiful in infrared light.
An infrared filter allows infrared light to reach the camera sensor, and blocks most visible and UV light. The camera can now record infrared light and a new world of creativity lies before you! When color is removed, some of the reality is removed, creating pictures that are more surreal and artistic. From a photographic perspective, the world becomes captivating in an entirely new way!
An infrared filter is dark red, almost black. When you use an infrared filter on the lens, exposure times are longer and seeing through the filter is impossible. A tripod is needed for the long exposure, and image quality degrades. However, you can see through the lens of a converted camera. Spontaneous photography can be achieved, and image quality is far superior. Though a bit more expensive, the benefits of an infrared converted camera outweigh the cost.
There are several choices for infrared camera conversion – which makes infrared photography very exciting. All of the infrared conversion methods can be used for creating timeless and traditional black and white infrared imagery. The last two filters give the photographer more latitude with color interpretation.
The deep black and white infrared filter (830nm) allows the least amount of visible light to reach the sensor, creating black-and-white infrared images with good contrast.
The standard R72 type filter, (720nm) is the most common, and is easy to work with. A small amount of visible light reaches the camera sensor, which can be used creatively for the beautiful blue-sky effect.
The enhanced color filter (665nm) and super color (590nm) infrared filters allow the most visible light to reach the camera sensor, compared to the previous filters, producing images with many options for creative color use. A little more Photoshop is required for post processing. Cameras converted with these two infrared filters create stunning images with a vivid blue sky and rich gold foliage.
Subjects reflect or absorb infrared differently than they do in visible light. The contrast between the sky and clouds in infrared can be quite dramatic. Bodies of water can appear very dark. Foliage looks white and is unexpectedly different and beautiful. Skin tones take on an ethereal appearance, which is very attractive to wedding and fine art photographers.
So, ask yourself, What if…? Infrared photography allows you to expand your creativity, and create one-of-a-kind images. Once you shoot in infrared, you will “see” and capture subjects in a unique and special way. There are no limitations! Enjoy!
How to Create a Blue Sky with your Infrared Images
Shooting in infrared can transform a scene into something magical and otherworldly! A creative way to alter the look of an infrared image is to create the blue sky effect by “channel swapping” colors. This is very easy to do with the Channel Mixer in Photoshop. Images created with converted cameras using the enhanced (665nm) or super color (590nm) infrared filters work beautifully for this technique. Certain standard R72 type infrared images such as the one above work too. Here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Choose the Channel Mixer from the Adjustment Panel.
Step 2: Adjust the source channels, moving the red channel slider from 100% to 0, and increase the blue channel slider from 0 to 100%. (You can type in the values).
Step 3: Change the output channel to blue, and increase the red source channel to 100%.
Step 4: Change the blue source channel to from 100% to 0% to exchange the blue channel for the red.
Save this as a preset so you never have to go through these steps again! Click on the small preset options box next to the preset drop down menu “Save Channel Mixer Preset” (at the top of the channel mixer). I saved my settings as “Blue Sky” for easy reference and a one click adjustment.
You can use a Hue Saturation adjustment layer to enhance the color of your blue sky. Choose the Blue or Cyan Channel and adjust the Hue slider to the desired shade of blue.