Shooting Infrared Film

by | Apr 12, 2018

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph”—Alfred Stiegletz

Or not. Infrared radiation has some of the same properties as visible light. It can be focused and reflected like visible light and can be aligned and even polarized. Infrared film is sensitive to IR radiation, some ultraviolet radiation and to all wavelengths of visible light but is not as sensitive to green light.

Eastman Kodak previously offered a black and white infrared film called High Speed Infrared (HIE) and Ilford still offers its SFX 200 film that has sensitivity to 720nm, which can be extended to 740nm by using a deep red filter. (More about nanometers and how that unit of measurement relates to infrared photography can be found here.)

The downsides: Infrared film must be loaded into your camera in complete darkness and you will also have to unload it in total darkness too and, most likely, process it yourself. Historically infrared films had the reputation that they could not be processed in plastic tanks but the JOBO tanks that I used back in the day have been tested to be compatible with IR films. Caveat:  Since many film changing bags are not opaque to IR radiation, your biggest problem will be loading the film onto the reels before processing which is best done in a proper darkroom to adequately assure against fogging.

The above image was originally captured on a snowy day in my former Baltimore neighborhood, the 200-year old village of Dickeyville, using Kodak’s black and white infrared negative film. The film frame was scanned as a positive image and converted into what you see here. No exposure data was recorded back in those pre-EXIF days.



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 four bucks. A combination of both books would make a great gift for your favorite photographer or yourself.