Infrared Photography

One of the more cooler sides of photography is Infrared (IR). I got into it because photos mades with IR look fantastically surreal, eerie and sometimes spooky. IR is also used in paranormal research which has yielded some pretty interesting images.

Recognize this place? Chicago Botanic Gardens looks like a whimsical land of winter fairies.

So how to do Infrared? Well there are 4 options. One is to convert your camera to IR , buy a camera already converted, use IR film or just purchase an IR filter. I choose the quickest and cheapest route and purchased a filter.

I won’t belabor this post with the history of Infrared but a short synopsis of what it is. There is a spectrum of light that we humans can’t detect with our eyesight. IR has longer wavelengths and higher frequencies of light. There’s a first chunk called “Near Infrared” which starts right after the visible light (rainbow). It oscillates from 700-900nm. This is the spectrum that IR photography captures. There is the second chunk called “Far Infrared” which oscillates from 900-1200nm. Microwave and radio signals fall into that spectrum. It is also said that paranormal entities can be seen in the IR spectrum.

I’m sure you’re probably wondering about “gamma rays” and how the Hulk became the Hulk. Well, you have to go the opposite direction where the wavelengths are shorter and frequencies are lower. But we’ll leave that for another post.

Via Wikipedia.

The filter I purchased is a Hoya Filter. They are sold in a variety of sizes. You can find the diameter of your lens on top usually written with a Φ (Phi) symbol. I got the 58mm RM 72. The “RM 72” tells you that it blocks all visible light up to 720nm. It’s an affordable and decent filter and it threads onto the lens easily.

Chicago Botanic Gardens: ghostly figures? Actually not, just two visitors who walked into shot.

So to simplify this: You’re going to need a tripod. Start off with landscape photography if you’re new to Infrared. Foliage becomes almost white. Make sure you compose your shot before you attach the filter. It blocks visible light so you’re not going to see anything once it’s on.

Image: Raw. Make sure you’re shooting RAW. Mode: Manual. Aperture: I used f1.8 on some shots, others f/5. ISO: I used 100 and 200. Shutter: I used 30 seconds. Experiment.

So that part was easy, kinda. The rest of IR happens in post-processing. The RAW images you import will look like you walked into the red light district on Mars.


Once the image is imported Photoshop, add an Adjustment Layer. (Under your Layers tab or Layers Window at the bottom.) The layer you want in the drop-down menu is Channel Mixer. Play around with the channels sliders. You got 3: red, green and blue so remember you have to switch. Or you can click on Monochrome and it will create a b/w image. Once you get rid of the wacky red, you can continue working on adding other adjustment layers such as Hue/Saturation and Levels and Curves.

As you can see above I left the image red and adjusted the Exposure. In the same image below I added a Photo Filter. So I encourage you to explore your Adjustment Layer tools and experiment.

All images were shot using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
Eerie shot: do you see a person looking at you?

Have fun exploring the invisible light world!



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