The Creative Effects of Infared Photography

Rockford Tower IR by Don Whitney

I recently became interested in the creative possibilities of IR, and have been working on building a portfolio.

This form of photography is challenging, to say the least, but the rewards in the form of unique images, are great.

Post-processing is required when dealing with digital IR images, since unprocessed images are an unimpressive red monochrome in color, and not much to look at. By using an imaging software, such as Photo Shop or Lightroom, the photographer can let creativity reign supreme. Images can be converted from red to either black & white or false color. It is these false color images that can result in unusual results, with many kinds of intense color shifts.

The equipment can be either film or digital. Infared film, however, is becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain since Kodak discontinued its manufacture. Film shooters must use an IR filter along with the specialized film. Since the filter blocks visible light, long exposures are required, along with stationary subjects and the use of a tripod. Exposures must be estimated, making the process even more difficult.

Digital shooters can approach IR in two ways. The first is like that of the film shooter, by use of an IR filter. The difference being, of course, that by shooting digitally, there is instant feedback, and adjustments can be made on the spot.

The second approach is by using a camera that has been converted to IR use, thereby eliminating the need for a filter.This conversion is accomplished by removing the IR filter from in front of the camera’s sensor. For those of us who are hesitant to open the innards of a perfectly functioning camera, there are experts, such as Life Pixel, http://lifepixel.com, who specialize in these conversions. The converted camera doesn’t require a dark filter, so composition and focus are done as usual. Custom white balance must be used, however, and most use the greenest, brightest, most sunlit grass available.

I was able to obtain a used converted Nikon D70 at a reasonable price, and have been indulging my creative juices ever since.

The accompanying photos will give you an idea of what can be done in both black & white and false color with this medium, but keep in mind that I am new to this, and by no means an expert.