Exploding Myths About Infrared Photography

by | Jul 15, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Easy to be hard—Three Dog Night

A reader once e-mailed asking me “Why do you do infrared photography, when regular photography is already so hard?” I wrote a post responding to that question and you can see some of my answers here. But today I want to explore and maybe explode some of the common myths some people have about digital infrared photography:

#1: There’s nothing to photograph. This statement is simply not true for infrared photography but I hear photographers uttering this complaint all the time when talking about different genres of capturing images. Instead, I’ll submit to you that when shooting IR there’s always something to photograph, whether you’re using filters or with IR-converted cameras.

How I Made this photo: For the photograph at left, I photographed this scene in McCabe Meadows, near Parker, Colorado, with a Lumix GX1 that I bought used from Roberts Camera and had converted to infrared capture by Life Pixel using their Hyper Color filter. The lens used was Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens (at 12mm) with a handheld exposure of 1/640 sec at f/10 and ISO 160, which is a little lower than the ISO 320 or 400 I normally shoot infrared. The image file was processed using one of the propriety Photoshop Actions provided by Life Pixel.

#2: Infrared photography only works with deciduous trees. That’s not entirely true. Infrared photography is most effective when photographing deciduous trees, the kind of trees that shed their leaves in the fall. The larger trees in the below photograph are Ponderosa Pines with a small blue spruce in between (it’s grown since I made this shot) which is the official state tree of Colorado. All these trees are evergreens, a non-deciduous species, yet as you can see there is obviously some IR effect. I have found is to be the best Wood Effect response from evergreens happens early in the Spring and while they still react later in the year, it’s not as dramatic as in this photo.

How I made this photo: I used a Canon EOS 50D to make the black and white photograph at right. It was shot in the side yard just outside my office window. Exposure for this photograph, made with the EF-S15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens, was 1/250 sec at f/16 and ISO 400.

Combining both of these myths together, the way The Dude’s rug tied the whole room together, is that this photograph was literally made in my own backyard featuring non-deciduous tree species and the image works pretty well, I think so anyway, as an infrared photograph. So photo ops are always around the corner especially when it come to infrared photography. And “maybe in your own backyard.” Give it a try and I think you’ll have fun too.

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 my Panasonic Lumix 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 $45.09 or used for around nine bucks as I write this. My other book, Creative Digital Monochrome Effects, has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon for $19.31 with used copies starting at around two bucks!