Infrared Photography and Why You Should Do It

A couples years back I saw some infrared photos and was completely amazed at how they looked. The bright colors, vibrant tones, and different look than normal photography. I started doing some research to find out how to shoot in infrared. The cheapest and easiest way it to buy a filter such as the Hoya R72. This is a 720 nanometer filter which is great for black and white and false color. The problem i had with this set up is my Canon SL1 is not great at detecting infrared light so I had to use a very long exposure in the middle of the day. It is my understanding that the R72 filter is almost 14 stops of light on my camera. Some cameras do a better job of allowing IR light to pass than others. One way to check is to use your TV remote and point it at your camera. If you see a light in your camera from your remote when you press a button, then it will work well for IR photos using the R72 filter.

I tried this for a while with not much luck so I bought a used Canon SL1 and had it converted. There are a couple places that will convert a camera to infrared but realize that it is now a dedicated IR camera and cannot be used for normal photos. I live in Seattle so I sent my camera to https://www.lifepixel.com since they are located just north in Mukilteo.

So why would you want to shoot Infrared? For one, the best time to shoot is the middle of the day when the light is too harsh for normal photography. You can make a summer day look and feel like winter. The photo below was taken in the summer on Lake Washington. Instead of boring green grass, green tree, and middle of the day, now it is wintery scene with amazing blue sky.

Lake Washington Infrared

Lake Washington Infrared

Now think about black and white photography. Most black and white photos are shades of grey with some black and some white. With infrared black and white, the photo takes on a new look. You can see in the photos below, the first one is taken with a normal camera, the second one is with my IR converted camera.

Standard black and white

Standard black and white

Infrared black and white

Infrared black and white

Whether you like the normal one or the infrared is personal preference, but the IR photo is different then other black and whites.

What about color infrared photos. Sure you can make them blue and white with simply reversing your red and blue channels in the Channel Mixer in Photoshop, but with a few more steps, your photos become vibrant and completely different. Take this photo I shot in Idaho during the late morning over Cascade Lake. The air was calm and the reflections were amazing.

Cascade Lake Infrared

Cascade Lake Infrared

What about this one from the Jose Rizal Bridge in Seattle.

12th Ave Bridge IR 1.jpg

One final image from Pier 66 in Seattle during the blue hour one evening last summer.

Pier 66 IR 4.jpg

Shooting in infrared has opened up the possibilities of photography in a way I didn’t think was possible. Shooting in the middle of the day, getting photos no one else has, or simply learning a new photography technique. Post processing infrared images is different than a normal photo so I would recommend studying Youtube videos, purchasing the CLIR panel from Blake Rudis at f64 Academy, or any other resource you can think of. Feel free to send me any questions you have about infrared photography and I will do my best to answer them.

Remember, unless you are getting paid, fill the frame with what you like.