A short tutorial on digital infra-red photography

By: John Smyth

Dec 20 2014

Category: Uncategorized

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The picture of the Ffrench mausoleum in Monivea is a composite of two images taken from exactly the same position (the camera was on a tripod). The first picture was a straight-forward colour photograph, and then I fixed an infrared filter to the front of the lens and took another picture. I blended the two in Photoshop. Why use this technique ? As I’ve mentioned before, there are only so many ways of photographing old buildings, and I’ve photographed plenty of them. The first time I wandered into Monivea woods, I wasn’t expecting to see a huge mausoleum hidden among the trees. The very sight of it struck me as utterly surreal, and though I’ve been back there a few times since (I was standing in front of the mausoleum 2 summers ago when I saw something else that was fairly surreal – for Ireland anyway) , the experience always strikes me as a little other-worldly. Though I have a number of standard images of the mausoleum, I wanted to take a picture of it that captured how it seemed to me – something not quite normal. Hence the use of infrared. Infra-red is the colour ‘just after’ red in the visible colour spectrum (i.e. colours of the rainbow) – humans cannot see in infrared though other creatures can. The interest for photographers is how certain materials reflect infrared light – foliage (leaves, grass, etc) reflect a lot of infrared light which means they register as almost white (or glowing) in an image. Clear blue skies register as almost black. I don’t bother with colour infra-red images that much – I almost always use an infra-red shot to make a black and white picture. In the days of film, one used infrared-sensitive film, which required handling in total darkness, and special processing. Which is why I never got to use any. Digital infrared photography requires an infrared filter I don’t use infrared that often, and would not claim to be an expert on the subject, but here is my workflow – hope it is a help to others. I’ve used two different types of infrared filters – the Hoya R72 (the first filter I used) and the Tiffen 87 (the one I use now). The filter (which is screwed onto the front of the lens, in the ame way as you would add a UV or polariser filter) looks black – if you look through it, you won’t be able to see anythin, though it is really a very dark red filter. It works by preventing all light except infrared light (IR) from hitting the camera sensor – the exposure is created from IR light only.