See red

James Pater­son shows you how to give your im­ages the clas­sic look of black-and-white in­frared film us­ing sim­ple tools and fil­ters in Pho­to­shop

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Achieve the ef­fect of shoot­ing in in­frared con­vinc­ingly us­ing Pho­to­shop

In tra­di­tional film pho­tog­ra­phy, in­frared film is sen­si­tive to in­frared light, rather than the vis­i­ble spec­trum of red through to vi­o­let. It’s a colour that hu­man eyes are un­able to see, and the im­ages pro­duced with this spe­cial film have a glow­ing, dream­like qual­ity. Stripped of the usual spec­trum of colours, im­ages look mono­chrome, with things that re­flect in­frared light ap­pear­ing much brighter. In par­tic­u­lar, scenes that in­clude trees or fo­liage take on an oth­er­worldly qual­ity, as the green­est leaves re­flect in­frared light very strongly, and so ap­pear glow­ing white, while fa­mil­iar plants can have un­fa­mil­iar pat­terns, usu­ally vis­i­ble only to in­frared-see­ing in­sects.

You may not have a film cam­era, and con­vert­ing a dig­i­tal cam­era to shoot in in­frared is a dras­tic step, as you’ll lose the abil­ity to shoot con­ven­tional pho­tos with it. How­ever, you can achieve a sim­i­larly ethereal ef­fect with a few sim­ple Pho­to­shop tweaks, which we ex­plore in the steps op­po­site.

As with tra­di­tional in­frared film, the ef­fect works best on im­ages that fea­ture trees or plants, as the greens and yel­lows are made to glow. Sunny blue skies also work well, as the blues take on an in­tensely dark ap­pear­ance, and sun­light makes the colour of the trees and fo­liage look more sat­u­rated, which in turn makes them stand out from their sur­round­ings more once the in­frared ef­fect is ap­plied.

With tra­di­tional in­frared film pho­tog­ra­phy you’d typ­i­cally see a grainy, glow­ing qual­ity to the high­lights. You can achieve a sim­i­lar look with Pho­to­shop’s Dif­fuse Glow fil­ter – we’ll show you how easy it is. And to add to the dreamy qual­ity of the in­frared ef­fect, we’ll also use a blur fil­ter to sug­gest the kind of move­ment in the clouds you’d get with a long ex­po­sure.

Stripped of the usual spec­trum of colours, im­ages look mono­chrome, with things that re­flect in­frared light ap­pear­ing much brighter… fo­liage takes on an oth­er­worldly qual­ity

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