Determining Correct Exposure When Shooting Infrared

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

As I’ve explained here before, “I’m not asking you to change anything you’re already doing. I’m just providing information that you can use—or not. This is not a ‘my way or the highway’ blog.”

When shooting infrared, the near white reproduction of green chlorophyll in some vegetation  produces black-and-white photographs rendered as if they were glowing, moonlit or immersed in extraterrestrial light.

How I made this shot: Camera was a Canon EOS 50D converted to infrared by Life Pixel. Lens was the now discontinued Tamron AF 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 Di-II SP LD Aspherical at 11mm with an exposure of 1/90 sec at f/16 and ISO 400. RAW file processed in Silver Efex Pro.

Infrared color photographs when made with IR color film have a fairy-tale look rendering infrared-reflecting plants in orange to purple-red tones. As in black and white IR photography, the results are difficult to predict, making them ideal for experimentation and the kind of surprises that photographers who are in their first phase of development always experience. In short, it’s an easy way to kick-start your creativity.

How I made this shot: Camera was a Canon EOS Rebel Xti converted to infrared by LIfe Pixel. Lens was the now discontinued Tamron AF 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 Di-II SP LD Aspherical at 11mm with an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/16 and ISO 400. RAW file processed in Silver Efex Pro.

Two subjects that appear equally bright in normal (visible) light might reflect infrared radiation at different rates and have different IR brightness. That’s because exposure meters that are built into cameras (and even hand held ones) are not sensitive to infrared light. This means that it can be difficult to calculate exact exposures but that doesn’t mean you can’t try, especially with your camera’s LCD providing instant feedback.

That’s why it’s  a good idea to bracket infrared shots is a series of three to five different exposures. Most cameras these days have an auto-bracketing feature or you can use Exposure Compensation to adjust exposures at one-half or one-third stops in any of the various automatic exposure modes. If all else fails, use manual mode.

Here’s one exposure method that I use: In Program mode, I look through the lens and see what the suggested exposure is, then switch back to Manual and transfer the shutter speed and aperture to the camera. Now I’m free to change shutter speed or aperture to bracket exposures. For more tips on this subject, please check out my post: Exposure Tips for Infrared Photography.


I’ve found that Life Pixel does a great job with IR conversions and they’ve done most of the conversions for my Canon DSLRs and all of my Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras. This is not a paid or sponsored endorsement, just my experience.

My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is available from Amazon with used copies selling for $9.94 as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with used copies starting at $4.00.