An Excursion into Infrared Photography

Posted by CWade in Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

I’ve been toying with infrared photography lately. I find it fascinating that the camera can record parts of the light spectrum invisible to the human eye.

I actually purchased an infrared filter, the ubiquitous Hoya R72, at least 6 months ago, but haven’t had occasion to even try it out yet as Chicago Winters are insanely prolonged, and you usually need good sunlight for IR.

SCIENCE!: Here’s your basic electromagnetic radiation spectrum diagram:

The R72 basically blocks the 99% of the visible light spectrum, from 400-700 nm (nanometer), and passes IR radiation, beyond 700nm.Here it is attached to my Sigma AF 28-70 f/2.8 (blah!) on my D80:

^Please excuse the dusty lightbox mirror.

You can see how opaque it really is. Getting around this basically requires very long exposures. Depending on your ISO settings, they can be from 3-4 seconds to over a minute. So far, most of mine averaged 30-45 seconds.

Of course, these extended exposures require a tripod and remote release(that’s the Nikon ML-L3 pictured [which is triggered by infrared, coincidentally]). The little plastic square off to the left is the viewfinder cover, and is recommended for reducing light leaks during IR long-exposures.

An aside
: The D80 is basically one of the worst SLRs with which to attempt Infrared photography because Nikon places an IR cut filter, also called a ‘hot mirror’, over the camera’s CCD to prevent light leaks when shooting in the normal spectrum. Generally, each successive generation of SLRs released (of all major brands) have stronger and stronger IR cut filters installed. However, a nifty company called Life Pixel can remove (for a price- $325.00) the internal filter, thereby converting your normal camera into an infrared-only device. Which is neat if you have another main SLR to shoot with.

Post-aside: Unfortunately the D80 is my only digital SLR at the moment, and I haven’t made the foray into infrared film yet, although it’ll undoubtedly happen.

Enough Jabber! Here is an image straight-out-of-camera, as it were:

You can see its hue is strongly red-magenta. Every camera’s algorithmic interpretation of IR will differ, and these are all false colors, anyway. The most important part of digital color IR photography lies in post-production.

Following are three versions of the photo obtained by various methods of switching the Red & Blue channels as well as Hue and Saturation adjustments:

You may notice that all have a annoying, bright “hot spot” in the center of the image. This has to do with the lens, and not the camera or filter, and is basically caused by light reflections inside the barrel. Here is a nice list of some lenses that are recommended for infrared use (notice the absence of mine): List

…a warmer version.

…a cooler version.

There really is no “correct” version- just what is pleasing to the subjective individual aesthetic. Many people do like foliage to appear white against dark blue skies, however. And, in order to achieve this, the camera’s custom white balance must be set very carefully.

I’ve got way too many IR shots to share here, so if you’re curious, head over to my Flickr set,


An Invisible Light,”

to view more.

3 Responses to An Excursion into Infrared Photography

  1. Victoria Bennett Beyer says:

    That was a really interesting post. I have a D80, too, and everyone has been telling me to try infrared since I’ve got all this big sky around. I did not realize it was not suited to infrared. It looks like you are making it work, though. I’m off to check out your other infrared work…

  2. Hero's Cousin says:

    Very cool. I hate the hotspots, but they are not too hard to get rid of while processing.

    I actually just wrote a blog about IR too, though it was a bit less technical! :) I put several IR images up at Keep up the great work!

  3. Julie Magers Soulen says:

    Fascinating post. I have a D80 with a Sigma lens too!

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