Jun 25, 2020
Infrared Photography opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
I also tell a bit of a personal story about our hunt for a home. If you want to skip it it’s actually about 11 minutes long (i mention just “a minute or two” in the intro part, but anyway, we are on our way to much better and greater things.
This is Latitude Photography Podcast, Episode 85 for June 25, 2020
Links Mentioned in today’s show:
Find Lori’s website here: OregonExposures.com
Read Lori’s blogpost on the subject here: https://oregonexposures.com/how-to-get-started-in-infrared-photography/
Get 30% off your infrared conversion! Discount Code: latitude30
$30 off on orders over $225
Get some free resources here: https://brentbergherm.com/info/resources/
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Main Topic: Infrared
What is Infrared?
The human eye sees only a small range of visible light in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum with Ultra Violet toward the left and Infrared toward the right side of the scale.
Infrared light waves are wider than visible light waves which grow wider the further they are from the visible light scale.
Humans can sense infrared from the heat it produces but we can’t see it with our eyes. Many things reflect infrared light, foliage being one of the great reflectors of infrared. This is why trees often glow white.
To see charts of the Electromagnetic Spectrum and geek out on the science behind it all: https://www.thermalcamerarentals.com/resource-center/beginners-guide-to-infrared-camera-technology
Types of Camera Conversions
When I purchased a new camera, I sent my old camera to Spencer’s Camera & Photo in Utah to be converted. Most labs offer conversion services as well as cameras already converted if you don’t have a spare camera that you want to convert.
Most camera sensors naturally see infrared light. To allow only visible color, as our eyes expect, manufacturers place a filter over the sensor to block infrared light. During the conversion process, this filter is removed and a new filter is placed over the sensor. Which filter you choose will determine how much infrared and color light your camera will detect.
The best cameras to have converted are mirrorless cameras with Live View screens. Infrared light does not focus the same as visible light. Since live view on a mirrorless camera shows you what the sensor is seeing, it is much easier to get the proper focus.
DSLR’s are designed differently. It is recommended if you choose to have a DSLR converted, also have a lens calibrated for IR to compensate for the focusing differences.
To have a camera converted, mail your camera to the lab and they remove the sensor filter to let infrared light through. They have different filters to choose from. Each filter has different characteristics allowing or blocking varying degrees of color or IR light. The higher the nm (nanometer) number, the more visible color is blocked and more IR light is allowed.
590nm is considered extreme color. 590nm is very close to the visible light spectrum and much of the color information will still be present with the IR.
665nm is considered Amplified Color. It still has a lot of color information but not as much as the 590nm
720nm is considered Standard Color. It detects less color and more infrared details. This is what I have. These images are easy to process to Black & White but can also be processed toward color if you like.
830nm is considered Black & White. It detects no color, only infrared information.
Full Spectrum Conversions – A conversion where the IR blocking filter over the sensor is replaced by a clear filter, allowing the camera to detect all light ranges from UV to IR. To use this camera, you place special filters on the front of your lens to block or allow the type of light waves you want.
Advantage – One camera for all types of photography
Disadvantage – You must use lens special lens filters which can be expensive
There’s a new IR in town, 470nm called Hyper Color. I have only seen a few images from this conversion. It’s cool but I suspect it is an acquired taste and performs best when paired with certain types of subject matter.
During the conversion process, the lab will often create a special white balance profile for your camera. They may also calibrate one lens to optimize it for IR focusing.
Choosing Lenses for Infrared
Select appropriate lenses – Unfortunately, some lenses tend to create hotspots. Few lenses are designed specifically for IR. Occasionally, the lens coating used can reflect in an unexpected way inside the lens barrel creating hotspots. These hotspots usually appear in the center of the image and are worse at smaller apertures. They can be minimized by setting your camera to a wider aperture.
Check the hotspot lens databases -
These are by no means complete lists. I have discovered some of my vintage lenses do a great job in IR even though they are not on the lists.
Experiment with the lenses you already own, you have nothing to lose. If you see hotspots, try opening up to a wider aperture.
How to Shoot Infrared
Shoot Raw – This will allow you to change your white balance and provide you with greater flexibility later when processing. JPG will limit your options and successes.
White Balance – When my camera was converted, Spencer’s created a custom white balance for my camera which I think most labs will include with the conversion service. You can create your own custom white balance for your camera. You will have to consult your manual or google on how to do it for your camera model. If you shoot RAW, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem since the white balance can be corrected in post. It is common for images to look very reddish in camera. Don’t panic! This is normal and can easily be corrected in post processing.
Shoot Manual… Or Not – I shoot everything manual so I might not be the best judge of this. Shooting manual allows me greater control over the aperture, shutter, ISO and focusing. However, I have read that some cameras will do a decent job with auto settings. It’s best to experiment with the camera you have and conduct some tests of your own and do what you are most comfortable with.
Use a Tripod… Or Not - I also typically use a tripod and a cable release which helps me slow down, compose the best shot and determine the best settings. Just as with regular photography, you can hand-hold if your shutter speed is fast enough.
Aperture & Shutter – You can use aperture and shutter the same way you would for color photography. Just bear in mind that smaller apertures may cause hot spots for some lenses. In which case, open the aperture a little bit and adjust the shutter to compensate.
Manual Focus - I prefer manual focusing. I use Live View and Focus Peaking. Most modern cameras have it. I set my Focus Peaking color to red so it contrasts nicely with the infrared display.
Auto-Focus - Many cameras will do a decent job of auto-focusing infrared. Set your camera to direct or live focus mode. Check your manual on how to set this up.
Choosing a Subject
Some subjects emit their own infrared light, while some subjects reflect the infrared light around them. The amount of detectable infrared light can vary depending on the time of day, or atmospheric conditions just like regular light so it’s best to experiment. Weather conditions that I like are bright sun with clouds and side lighting early or late in the day.
The rules of basic composition apply just as much to IR as it does to color photography. With that in mind, a few subjects really shine in Infrared. Here are a few of my favorites:
Plants – Broad leaf plants reflect a great deal of infrared and their foliage will appear white in an infrared photo. This reflection will often produce a glowing effect.
Clouds – The sky on a bright day will appear very dark if not almost black because of the great amount of infrared light in the atmosphere. In contrast, clouds will reflect infrared light and appear very white depending on their water content. Clouds and sky are great compositional features in IR offering drama and moodiness to your images.
Old Wood – I often find that I like the contrast between the glowy foliage and the harsh textures of old wood. This could be an old stump, and old cabin or wooden fence. I do not believe the old wood emits or reflects infrared but it seems to create a nice juxtaposition in contrast to the glowing effect of foliage.
Iron – Sometimes old rusty bits of ornate iron, like old park benches, farm equipment, gates, etc. can create great subjects for IR. I often like to mix something man-made into the image. Use your imagination… Anything goes for subject matter.
Processing IR in Lightroom, Photoshop or Adobe Camera Raw
In order to properly process Infrared photos, there are a couple steps to take to prepare Lightroom, and Adobe ACR for Infrared processing. The first thing you need to do is create an Infrared Profile for your camera. Here is a link to a YouTube video that explains the steps.
This will save a profile for your specific camera in the profile section of ACR in LR and PS. After the profile is saved into Lightroom, it will automatically be listed as a profile option when you upload images into Lightroom and available for you to use on all future uploads. Thankfully this is a step you only must do once.
The next step is to do a Red & Blue Channel Swap. For this step, take your image to Photoshop. This is explained in this YouTube video by Rob Shea Photography. Optional - I saved my channel swap as an action so it is a simple one button click to apply. (Google how to save actions in PS if you need to.)
Now the basic steps are done and you are ready to further process your image suitable to your tastes. A popular option is to go Black & White. I often leave my images with a touch of color. One tool I use quite often with Infrared Images is the Levels tool. I will slide the sliders in just to where they meet the ends of the histogram. Sometimes I will also adjust the mid-tones. I adjust every image a little bit differently depending on the image and the result I am going for. There are really no rules, only mood and opinions.
To get inspired, I suggest joining some of the great Facebook and IG pages dedicated to Infrared Photography. You will have an opportunity to view images and learn what look you like the best. Typically, the groups are very friendly and helpful if you have questions. There are many terrific processing videos on YouTube as well.
I am pleased to announce that Spencer’s Camera has offered listeners a special discount code good for $30 off any order over $225. Use the code: latitude30 when you check out. You can visit Spencer’s website at https://www.spencerscamera.com/infrared-conversions.cfm. Their website is also a great resource for more information on Infrared photography.
To see a chart of an Electromagnetic Spectrum: https://www.thermalcamerarentals.com/resource-center/beginners-guide-to-infrared-camera-technology
Zenitar Lenses on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=zenitar+MC+Zenitar-K2+2%2F50&_sacat=0 (This lens may require an adapter to work on your camera.)
Creating a Lightroom Color
Profile for Infrared Images by Rob Shea Photography:
Adobe DNG Profile Editor: https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/digital-negative.html
Five methods to do a channel swap by Rob Shea Photography: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49F90lLt_zw
Rob Shea Photography YouTube Channel, a great resource for everything Infrared: