PHOTO SKILLS: IN­FRARED FIL­TER

WANT to cap­ture WHAT the HU­MAN eye can’t See? IN­FRARED pho­tog­ra­phy is A GREAT WAY to Flex your cre­ative mus­cles AND try out A NEW Dis­ci­pline. JOR­DAN But­ters Guides the WAY…

Digital SLR Photography - - Contents - Cam­era: Nikon D750 / Lens: Nikon AF- S 16- 35mm F/ 4G / Fil­ters: Hoya R72 IN­FRARED

Learn how to shoot in­frared us­ing an IR fil­ter on your lens. Jor­dan But­ters shares the tech­niques to try

The hu­man eye is a truly fan­tas­tic, ad­vanced and com­plex piece of kit, how­ever for all of its abil­i­ties, our eyes are only able to see some wave­lengths of light. The av­er­age hu­man eye can re­spond to wave­lengths of 390nm to 700nm – wave­lengths out­side of this are ei­ther ul­travi­o­let ( shorter than 390nm) or in­frared ( longer than 700nm). herein lies one of the big at­trac­tions of in­frared pho­tog­ra­phy – your cam­era can be made to see what the hu­man eye can’t – you can lit­er­ally pho­to­graph in­vis­i­ble light!

The re­sults are high in con­trast with dark skies and wa­ter, and bright, ra­di­ant fo­liage and hu­man skin. This is due to the dif­fer­ent ways that sur­faces re­act with in­frared light: sur­faces that re­flect in­frared light ( such as leaves and our skin) are ren­dered as bright white, while those that ab­sorb in­frared ( IR) light ( such as wa­ter) are ren­dered dark. an­other bonus is that in­frared pho­tog­ra­phy is often best prac­tised on sunny, bright days, so it’s the per­fect dis­ci­pline to try out when the light is too harsh for shoot­ing reg­u­lar land­scape im­ages.

If you want to cap­ture your own in­frared im­ages ( and why wouldn’t you?) then there’s two ways to go about it: you can ei­ther have your cam­era per­ma­nently con­verted to record in­frared by re­mov­ing the IR cut fil­ter to al­low in­frared light to reach the sen­sor, or you can use an in­frared fil­ter on the front of your lens. Both ap­proaches have their pros and cons – for ex­am­ple, IR- con­verted cam­eras can be used hand­held at nor­mal shut­ter speeds, whereas us­ing an in­frared fil­ter on the lens re­quires much longer ex­po­sures. The main ben­e­fit of us­ing an IR fil­ter is that they’re cheaper than con­vert­ing a cam­era, and it can be fit­ted and re­moved at will, so the cam­era can still be used to take ‘ nor­mal’ im­ages with­out the fil­ter. Once you’ve con­verted a cam­era to in­frared, that’s all it cap­tures. There are two com­mon trains of thought for pro­cess­ing IR im­ages – mono­chrome or ‘ false colour’. The lat­ter in­volves cre­at­ing cus­tom cam­era pro­files to gain suf­fi­cient White Bal­ance ad­just­ment, which varies from soft­ware to soft­ware and cam­era to cam­era. There­fore, in the name of sim­plic­ity I’m go­ing to fo­cus on mono­chrome in­frared im­ages here…

1 Use

a Pic ture st yle Be­fore find­ing your com­po­si­tion, you’ll need to set up your cam­era to make IR pho­tog­ra­phy a bit eas­ier. This is per­sonal pref­er­ence, but I like to switch to shoot in both JPEG + Raw, then I set my Pic­ture Style to mono­chrome – this way I can get a feel for the fi­nal mono­chrome im­age us­ing the pre­view im­age that I see on the LCD mon­i­tor, but the Raw file is saved in colour.

3 Fo­cus

First you’ll need a tri­pod as ex­po­sures are likely to be long. as the in­frared fil­ter blocks a lot of light, you won’t be able to see through it us­ing the viewfinder. There­fore, get your com­po­si­tion set, fo­cus ac­cu­rately and then switch to man­ual fo­cus be­fore fit­ting the fil­ter to stop the lens from re­fo­cus­ing. you could try Live­view too – some sen­sors are sen­si­tive enough to still see through IR fil­ters.

2 cus­tom

White Bal ance If you want to play around with colour in­frared im­ages at a later date, then it’s a good idea to set a cus­tom White Bal­ance in- cam­era at this point. as fo­liage re­flects strong in­frared light, a good ref­er­ence is a patch of fo­liage or grass in full sun. Con­sult your cam­era’s user man­ual for in­for­ma­tion on set­ting a cus­tom White Bal­ance, as it dif­fers wildly from model to model.

4 man­ual

e xposure Our cam­eras can’t me­ter in­frared light, so you’ll need to use man­ual mode. a slightly higher than usual ISO will help keep ex­po­sure times down, but they’re still likely to be in ex­cess of ten sec­onds. Start with a base set­tings of 15 sec­onds at f/ 8 ( ISO 400) on a bright, sunny day, or 20- 25 sec­onds on an over­cast day. When you’re ready, fit the fil­ter, be­ing care­ful not to shift the fo­cus.

5 Check

and reshoot Check the re­sults, turn­ing on the blink­ing high­light clip­ping warn­ings for signs of over­ex­po­sure. Ad­just your ex­po­sure if nec­es­sary. Don’t be afraid of in­creas­ing the ISO rat­ing to bring the ex­po­sure time down – more re­cent DSLRS are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing clean im­ages at ISO 1600, and any noise can even add to the ef­fect. As you can see, my first at­tempt was very over­ex­posed!

6 edit

your im­ages Down­load your im­ages onto your com­puter. If you’ve shot in Raw + JPEG with the Mono­chrome pic­ture style then your JPEGS will be ready to use straight away. In­frared Raw files often ben­e­fit from ad­di­tional tweaks – I’ve found that Nik Soft­ware’s Sil­ver Efex Pro is quick and easy for pro­cess­ing mono­chrome IR im­ages, and of­fers great re­sults.

it’s all white In­frared pho­tog­ra­phy is best suited to scenes with plenty of fo­liage un­der blue skies and fluffy white clouds.

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