Exposure Tips for Digital Infrared

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

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

Subjects that seem equally bright under visible light might reflect infrared radiation at different rates and 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 where the best exposure may be. Some 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.
  • Even if your camera doesn’t have auto bracketing it should have Exposure Compensation 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 the suggested exposure, then transfer shutter speed and aperture to the camera after it’s set in manual mode and then bracket on the overexposure side until I see the white 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 the dark (you can’t see though them) filters you’ll need a tripod because of long exposure times.
  • 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 here, which is just another reason why a tripod comes in handy.

Life Pixel does a great job with IR conversions and they have 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 new copies selling for $37.65 and used copies are for less than a dollar, as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with used copies selling for less that $3. Less than the price of a Starbucks latte.