I first tried infrared photography in High School on actual celluloid running through my Canon AE-1. The results were…lackluster. It was difficult to load, harder to meter, and almost impossible to develop.
Things have changed a lot.
I first came across infrared digital photography working with Shawn Angelski who’s amazing images had me hooked instantly. Shawn had converted his Canon 5DII to be a dedicated infrared camera, and while that yields amazing results, I wasn’t going to retire my main shooting camera for a new hobby.
Enter the old Sony RX100.
I had this little point and shoot laying on my desk collecting dust for too long. I found this amazing company online, LifePixel, who can convert lots of different cameras to infrared. What’s great is you can choose what nanometer wavelength of infrared you want to shoot, basically, the type of infrared you want to capture. There is more about that on their site, but I chose the Super Color option cause I wanted to get funky.
And boy is it funky.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that might help you get best results:
- You have to use a special white balance to get proper results. The white balance should be programed into the camera by the company that augments your camera.
- Bright light, daylight, and plant matter works best for getting a full spectrum of color.
- post processing is necessary for getting amazing results.
- Using a CF or polarizing filter helps get tack sharp images.
- Don’t be afraid to shoot video, it will blow your mind.
1 … white balance. It’s good to understand what is going on under the hood here. Basically when you convert your camera you are placing a filter over sensor to just allow a specific infrared wavelength of light to pass through. As Infrared is outside of visible light, your white balance is no longer valid, and has to be cranked way toward blue to get you something that represents different channels of color.
2 … bright light don’t fright. What really makes infrared pop is lots of photons of light. intense contrast, especially when shooting anything plant matter, will give you images that look otherworldly. This is because of the way chemicals in plants (chloroform mainly) reflects infrared light, and the sky doesn’t. This is also cool because now you can start to see how insects and birds see the world.
3 … post malone. Your pictures are going to look like you spilled kool-aide on them. This is normal. Its infraRED after all. To get the results you want you will need to process them in post. Basically in the channel mixer, set the output channel to red, and change red to 0 and blue to 100. Then change the output channel to blue, and put red to 95 and blue to -3. And when you’re saying “what the hell does this mean” hop over to Nicolesy Blog where there is a great step-by-step write up.
4 … CF or Pola filter. This is just good basic photography techniques.
5 … Video! Lots of people shoot stills… not a lot of people shoot IR video, and I don’t know why. You can process it the same, and it gives you a unique look you don’t see often online.
Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.
Follow him @serrini