Infrared Photography

"Infrared photography? I've never heard that before." But almost certainly you have seen it before without knowing it is infrared photography. An infrared image produces a distinctive "look." Green foliage becomes intensely bright, a blue sky is imaged much darker, and the skin tone of people portrayed turns to blue pastel colors. In infrared landscape photography, the subjects gains contrast and brilliance. And last but not least, infrared images often have a mystical and mysterious effect. But what is photographing the invisible all about?

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The spectrum and our eye

The part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see with our eyes is very limited. Between approx. 400 nm (violet) to approx. 700 nm (red) wavelength our perception takes place, the rest unfortunately remains hidden. The visible range (also VIS range) is directly followed by the near ultraviolet and infrared range.

Although hardly any differences are to be expected due to the proximity to the visible (VIS) range, the image results prove the opposite. Plants reflect light almost completely in these spectral ranges to avoid overheating and tissue damage (as a result of solar radiation). The result is that living plants are displayed very bright on IR images. This effect cannot be calculated by a filter in post-processing - a green sweater for example would simply be rendered white (what is obviously not true).

In order to make these spectral ranges visible to our eyes, we need a tool. The image sensors of all commercially available digital cameras are basically well suited to capture the near infrared or UV light. Only the factory condition in which a camera is purchased makes it extremely difficult or impossible to photograph infrared. You can find out more about the existing possibilities for digital infrared photography in the section about conversions.

Effect of infrared images

Capturing the invisible certainly has its own special appeal. Viewed objectively, IR images sometimes show completely different surface textures and the images often gain in brilliance and contrast. Probably the most obvious feature of infrared photography is the bright foliage. In addition to the so-called "Wood effect", it is noticeable that the sky and the water appear much darker. Often a very nice contrast in the sky can be achieved, especially in combination with fleecy clouds.

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IR images often appear contrasty, not least because many were taken in the harsh midday light. Nevertheless, shadows and highlights are well defined. Foliage in a landscape acts as a large reflector and ensures that there is enough light even in the shadows of trees. It is easy to create distinctive moods with infrared photography. A familiar landscape shines in a completely new light.

The majority of infrared photographers are active in landscape photography, but of course the application is not limited to that. Those who try their skills at IR portrait photography will quickly notice that human skin acquires a light and soft tone. This is a popular effect, not only among wedding photographers.

Color infrared images

Photographing infrared does not always mean photographing black and white. Depending on the filter used, color infrared images can be created with rich and impressive (false) colors. As soon as more than only the pure infrared light (above 830 nm) hits the camera sensor, color information is created in the digital image. These colors are of course 100% artificial and have nothing to do with the actual nature of infrared light. Nevertheless, breathtaking moods can be captured with this kind of "artifacts".

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Such colors with yellow or even red foliage, however, do not come straight from the camera, some editing is usually required. More information about the processing steps is summarized on the last page of this guide . With much less post-processing you can reach your goal with the InfraBlue filter.