So this is a subject that I have wanted to talk about for a really long time. It’s one of those subjects that when you bring it up in conversation to people who are in the same industry you are you get one of two reactions. The first (which normally comes from people who are new in the industry and haven’t been shooting that long,) is the question of what is that? The second on the other hand is one of “Ah yeah I have heard of that, but I have never seen it or tried it.
When I started doing photography almost 7 years go, I had never known that this type of photography honestly existed. I knew there were landscapes, photos of cars, and pictures of people, all those different types. To be quite honest I didn’t even realize that there were that many different subsets of photography in each one of those types of categories. If you would have asked me what Infrared photography was, I would have immediately thought that it was one of those images that you see where everything is pretty much different shades of red where heat signatures are red, like in the picture below to the left.
In reality though, infrared photography is nothing like that. The whole idea of infrared photography starts with the idea that you are capturing the all the infrared light that bounces off the foliage, water, buildings, etc. Now what does this look like? I will give you more of an idea of what it looks like after I’ve dived a little bit more into it. How the final product turns out is dependent on a couple of things; the type of filter one might have to go on their lenses, and how they edit the image in what ever post processing software that they use. Personally, I like to do a lot of conversion. Going from the original image that was taken after the filter was put on, a custom white balance as created, and the correct settings are used, it takes a lot of time and processing in the computer. Many hours of doing many different layers and zooming in so close, down to pixel level, to make sure you don’t make the image look like crap when it’s zoomed in on.
But that’s honestly not where it begins, but more along the lines of where it ends. Post processing takes a lot longer when it comes to doing Infrared Photography. But, having the right equipment is where you have to make sure that you are doing everything right. Personally, I use a filter that attached on to two of my lenses. It’s a 77mm IR Filter made by Hoya, and the type of filter is the R72. You can buy other filters that are different opacities as well. Hoya, is one the big makers of these types of filters but they make some that are less expensive from other companies.
When using this filter the biggest obstacle that you have to take into account is the fact that the filter does not allow you to focus. Because of this you have to basically guess the infrared focusing points. I say this because the focus points are completely different from normal images to Infrared ones. Thankfully on my canon and its higher level L-series and some of its USM lenses have The infrared focus points on the lenses so that once the filter is put on, you do it without looking through the camera. The camera settings are practically the same, a stop up or down on aperture and shutter here and here but you don’t really want to change it up too much. My safe zone for shooting these types of images are (if you don’t have a remote for the bulb function) f8 30sec at 500 ISO. Make SURE you have the camera on a tripod or a stable ground that you can use as one. Any type of movement while the camera is taking the exposure as you know, will mess the image up. Those settings are where I start, and then adjust from there. Now, keep in mind these are settings that are needed when using a filter. If you are fortunate enough to get a camera that is converted for infrared photography, you can use that camera as if you would normally. That allows you to not have to use a tripod because of the long exposure time.
After I put the image into the computer, if I really wanted to I could leave it like this. But, it doesn’t really do anything for me. If I had a converted camera and had it set differently I may. Once You get it into the computer, you pop it over int o Photoshop and let the converting begin! Using the channel mixer layer, black and white layer, and a few levels layers I get the conversion I want where it looks like a normal sunny day with ALL white foliage as seen below. This is the way that I love to see the infrared images that I take, that or in black and white.
I honestly have my professor, Tami Chappell (www.tamichappell.com) at Gwinnett Technical College for my interest being peaked on this. It has really hobby inside of my profession that is photography. She began teaching us about it in my second semester of my first year of school and It has stuck with me ever since. The picture that you see at the bottom of this page was one that I did for a final project, which later was put into my final portfolio for graduation, and is still hanging up at the school in the department in one of the offices.