Shooting infrared (IR) is a great project for the summer months, when many landscape photographers struggle to find subjects, because of the high sun and harsh, high-contrast light. However, these conditions are perfect for infrared photography, especially black-and-white infrared; blue skies are rendered as a deep black, which contrasts strikingly with clouds, while foliage turns a ghostly white. lnfrared images are very eye-catching, often with an otherworldly look to them, and this assignment invites you to explore the possibilities they offer.
Digital cameras do not see infrared light as they have IR-blocking filters in front of the sensor to help them achieve natural-looking color. You can have a camera converted (which is both permanent and quite expensive), or you can fit an infrared filter, such as a Hoya R72 in front of the lens. This blocks all light from the visible spectrum, leaving only infrared light to reach the sensor. This is the cheaper option, but the trade-off is that, because of the camera’s IR-blocking filter, long exposures are required to create an image. Exactly how long depends on your camera as different brands have different strengths of IR-blocking filter, but you can expect to it to be similar to shooting with a 1 0-stop neutral density filter.
lnfrared images require careful post-processing. If you are shooting in Raw, you will have a color infrared image. So, to achieve the “false color” look, you will need to switch the Red and Blue channels in Photoshop-there are plenty of online tutorials to show you how to do this. If you are converting to mono, increase the contrast and also add a diffuse glow to the highlights, which will recreate the look of classic infrared film. Complete your assignment with prints of your six best shots.
View the images
- Metering is not always accurate when using an infrared (I R) filter, so check the playback histogram and be prepared to reshoot.
- To compensate for the loss of light you can increase the ISO. Don’t worry too much about noise, as infrared film was very grainy, so this just adds to the “character” of infrared photographs.
- If your end result is to be monochrome, set your in-camera picture style to mono-this won’t affect the Raw file, but will help you preview how well the image will convert.
- lnfrared filter, such as a Hoya R72