Getting a Fresh Start with Infrared

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I once received an e-mail from a reader asking “why do you do infrared photography, when regular photography is already so hard?” The short answer is because it’s fun. And yes, because it captures light that’s invisible to your eyes it can be challenging.

Your eyes typically see a range of light from approximately 400 to 700 nanometers. (A nanometer or nm is a metric unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter.) A digital camera’s sensor sees light in wavelengths from 350 to 1,000nm. Most digital cameras have a low pass filter directly in front of the sensor that lets low frequency light visible to the human eye to pass through to the sensor where it’s captured and blocks unwanted light from infrared and ultraviolet spectrums, preventing them from polluting a photograph’s color.

How I made this shot: This photograph of a bridge in McCabe Meadows was shot with Panasonic  Lumix G6 that was converted to infrared capture by Life Pixel and a Lumix 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 12mm) with an exposure of 1/250 sec at f/11 and ISO 400. It was processed in Silver Efex Pro and then toned using the Platinum tone in PhotoKit2.

If you have your camera modified for IR-only capture, the low pass filter is removed replacing it with a piece of optical glass that has a filter that only permits light of specific wavelengths to pass is installed. LifePixel, for example, offers several different filter options. For the image shown, the Lumix G6 had the Enhanced Filter installed that allows more color to pass and is especially suited for color IR photography with greater saturation and color range. Black & White or toned monochrome looks good too although with a bit less contrast without adjustments.

Please use the search function on this blog (in the upper right hand corner) to find posts about “infrared” and spend a few minutes perusing them it will help take some of the mystery out of shooting IR imagery.

If you would like to experience some of the same thrill of discovery that occurred during the first phase of your photographic education, my suggestion is that you never stop exploring. Try some new things. Maybe it’s infrared photography but whatever you do try something that’s outside your normal comfort zone. Stop making the same picture over and over again and try something new.

Life Pixel 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.

My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon for $11.64 as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with used copies selling for $1.81, less than your next coffee at Starbucks.