Exploring Infrared Photography

by | Jun 14, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Spring has been slow coming to Colorado and recent snowstorms have stunted and damaged some of the deciduous trees here on Daisy Hill, all of which has been slowing down my annual foray into digital infrared photography.

Any photograph is about lighting but infrared photography is about capturing images with invisible light, which is why comparisons to traditional photography can be difficult. If you want to create a dramatic image, few things beat a sunrise photographed in its vibrant colors. The same scene photographed in infrared might be disappointing unless there’s some IR reflective subject matter in the frame.

Infrared images have a dreamlike that;s known as the Wood Effect, an mainly caused by foliage such as tree leaves and grass strongly reflecting in the same way visible light is reflected from snow. There is a minor contribution from chlorophyll fluorescence but it’s not the real cause of the brightness seen in infrared photographs. This effect is named after the infrared photography pioneer Robert W. Wood (1868-1955,) and not after the material wood, which does not strongly reflect infrared.

I’m not Robert wood but here’s one of Farace’s Laws that apply to infrared photography: If the lighting looks great for traditional subject matter it’s probably not going to work that well for infrared photography. Don’t just take my word for it; you should experiment because you never know for sure what the results will be when working in infrared.

There are no ‘official’ subjects for digital IR photography although I take a crack at the subject on my car photography website/Blog. Summer landscapes with leafy deciduous trees, lots of grass, and puffy clouds often produce a great infrared picture but evergreens, like the Ponderosa Pines shown above on Daisy Hill, don’t reflect as much infrared but depending on the invisible light will reflect some IR light.

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 $9.99 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.