A Few Exposure Tips for Digital Infrared

by | Oct 7, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

When learning to see infrared imaging possibilities, the first thing I would suggest you do is forget everything you know about photography with visible light. That’s because when it comes to shooting infrared images everything you know about light is wrong.

Subjects that appear equally bright under visible light might reflect infrared radiation at different rates and when captured with a digital camera converted for IR photography (or though IR filters) exhibit different brightness. That’s because conventional exposure meters aren’t sensitive to infrared light, so theoretically it’s difficult to calculate exact exposures but that doesn’t mean you can’t try, especially with your camera’s LCD screen providing instant feedback. Here’s a few tips:


  • It’s a good idea to bracket a series of three to five different exposures until you see what the best exposure may be. Most modern DSLRs or mirrorless cameras have an auto bracketing function that makes a specified series of shots at exposures over and under what is considered “normal.” Because every camera’s a little different, read your camera’s manual for specific directions.
  • If your camera doesn’t have auto bracketing, it should have an Exposure Compensation control that lets you adjust exposures in one-half or one-third stops. If all else fails, use Manual mode. Typically I look through the viewfinder in Program mode to see what the suggested exposure is, then transfer that shutter speed and aperture to the camera after it’s in manual mode and then bracket on the overexposure side until I see that the foliage is clean and bright on the LCD screen
  • Just because you don’t have a converted IR camera doesn’t mean you can’t use these tips with filters on cameras that are IR capable.  When using these dark (you really can’t see though them) filters you’ll need a tripod because of the long exposure times they generate.
  • When shooting with IR filters, focus first then put the filter on the camera. Usually I just hold it there with my fingers during the exposure or have somebody else, as Mary is doing at right, which is just another reason why a tripod comes in handy.

    LifePixel does a great job with IR conversions and have done most of my Canon DSLRs and all of my Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras. This is not a paid or sponsored endorsement, just my experience.

    New copies of my book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently available from Amazon starting $45.09, with used copies starting around 25 bucks as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and new copies are available from Amazon for $21.30 with used copies starting at a little more than two bucks, which is a heckuva deal.