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The Fascination of Infra-Red

An article written for us by Roger Lee

This is not a treatise on Infra-Red photography - you can find any amount of detail on the internet should you so wish...


This is a real life example of how you can add a whole new and fascinating dimension to your photography with just a little experimentation.

The obvious starting point is to get yourself an IR filter:

Easily available on the internet, they are the key to your 'whole new world of photography'.
A tripod is essential as the dark filter results in exposure times which can be as long as 30 seconds or even more depending on the subject. Don't forget mirror lock-up and your cable release.
Because the image can be dark and so not easy to see through your viewfinder it is best to compose and FOCUS before attaching the filter (carefully!). Turn off long exposure noise reduction - no in-camera processing  speeds up the process. Turn off any image stabilization as well - not good for long exposures.
Exposure time is really by trial and error but you will soon get to know a good starting point. Thank you digital and the immediate feed-back! It's best to shoot in RAW as this gives you maximum flexibility when processing. Good to use a small aperture for best depth of field.


My images are non-traditional IR as I thought that I would experiment with low-light examples as I really enjoy this type of photography. (I also happened to be in London so there was no shortage of subject matter).  

This is where it gets really interesting as there are so many variables that one can use which can change the image significantly...


The variations can also include versions in Black and White...

Filters are available in different wavelengths but 720mm is regarded as the standard  and it's best to start with this....
Should you become  really hooked you can have your camera converted to full time IR. have all the details.
The White Balance setting will affect your images - this is where shooting in RAW is a great advantage for experimenting with different pre-settings. Playing with your white balance can be part of the fun!
It is also best to use as low and ISO level as possible in view of the noise factor - sometimes one can increase it to cut down on exposure time - depends on the circumstances and subject matter.
You take your picture and you get a result like this and now the fun starts....

The first step is to download the DNG Profile Editor from Adobe. This allows you to create a special profile which can be processed in Lightroom or Camera Raw. It allows you to go beyond the standard white balance value thresholds in adjusting your colour values.
You only need to create it once and you can then use it with any subsequent RAW images. You can do this in Lightroom by right clicking your sample photo and selecting the 'Export to DNG' command. Select a file to which you export this.
Open the DNG Profile Editor and then open your sample converted DNG image by clicking 'File > open DNG Image.
Click on the 'Colour Matrices' tab...the bottom slider is the 'White Balance Calibration'. Slide the temperature slider all the way to the left.
Now you need to export your profile - File>Export and save your profile file - give it an easy name!

Import and Open your new IR image in Lightroom - go to 'Develop' and then open the 'Camera Calibration' tab and, under the 'Profile' heading click the Adobe Standard drop down and select your newly saved profile from the drop down menu.
To start with set your temperature and tint sliders to around the middle of the bar - this will adjust your white balance so the end result is up to you.
Now you can get creative and adjust the rest of the sliders to produce an image that you enjoy...remember you are just getting started..
Import your image into Photoshop where you can adjust Colour channels, Levels and HSL.
Image>Adjustments>Channel Mixer...
Swap the red channel with the blue channel and the blue with the red channel:
In the Output Channel select RED.
In the Source Channel move the red to 0% and the blue to 100%
Then select BLUE in the output channel - in the source channel step red to 100% and blue to 0%.  Press OK

Remember that you are doing this for you so you can stop the process at any time when you get an image that appeals to you - the process is infinitely variable!!
Next try Image>Adjustments>Levels:
Select the Red channel and play around with your sliders.
Then try the Blue channel...
To play with colours go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation.
There are endless variations available with different methods of processing. Google 'IR Photography' and you will discover the vastness of the subject!
This article is a very brief, simple outline to hopefully whet your appetite for IR Photography. Traditional IR can give wonderful white foliage and so on - I have just tried to show that it is not limited to this type of image. For example you can do great portraits with beautiful skin tones etc. etc.  

Here is a final example of experimental fun...

HMS Belfast with a cruise liner moored alongside - long exposure - pressure from other photographers - no time to experiment - underexposed.

Push it quite hard to get a surrealistic image - sort of...

Do some processing....


I like the final image - not what I was intending at all!

What are your thoughts in Infra-Red photography? Could you write an article for the blog on any photographic topic?
Send us your comments in the box below.
Thank you

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