Previsualize Your Infrared Photographs

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“If I have any ‘message’ worth giving to a beginner it is that there are no short cuts in photography.” – Edward Weston

If a photograph is all about lighting, how is infrared photography about making images using invisible light, which is why comparisons to traditional photography can be difficult.

If you want to create a dramatic image, few things beat a beautiful sunrise photographed in vibrant colors. The same scene captured in infrared might be disappointing unless there’s some IR reflective subject matter to add interest. The glowing appearance of foliage you see in infrared photographs is called the “Wood Effect” and it’s not named after the material wood, which interestingly enough does not strongly reflect infrared, but after IR photography pioneer Robert W. Wood.

To help with your IR previsualization, Here’s one of Farace’s Laws about capturing infrared photographs: If the lighting looks great for a conventional photograph, it’s probably not going to work all that well for infrared photography. Don’t take my word for it; you need to experiment because you never know what the results will be when working in infrared until you try.

There are no ‘official’ subjects for digital IR photography. Summer landscapes with deciduous trees, grass and puffy clouds often make a great infrared picture. Evergreens, like the Ponderosa Pines here on Daisy Hill, don’t reflect as much infrared but depending on the invisible light will reflect some. Don’t confine your infrared photography just to landscapes.


I like to photograph cars and made the above picture of a Lotus Europa using an EOS 50D converted for IR-only capture by LifePixel. To insure sharp focus for this image I set the lens at its hyperfocal distance and changed exposure compensation to plus 1-1/3 stops to make the whites sparkle. Any subject is fair game if you want to produce digital infrared images. Experiment to discover what works. You may be surprised at the variety of subject matter you can find for your IR photographs.



My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon for $5.99 as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with used copies selling for three bucks. A combination of both books would make a great gift for your favorite photographer or yourself.