Infrared Photography

“Infrarot Fotografie? Das habe ich noch nie gehört.” Aber mit großer Sicherheit schon einmal gesehen, ohne zu wissen dass es Infrarotfotografie ist. Das Fotografieren im Infrarotbereich produziert einen unverkennbaren “Look”. Grünes Laub wird intensiv hell, ein blauer Himmel wird viel dunkler abgebildet und der Hautton von porträtierten Personen geht in blaße Pastelfarben über. In der Infrarot Landschaftsfotografie gewinnen die Motive an Kontrast und Brillanz, nicht zuletzt geht von Infrarotaufnahmen oft eine mystische und geheimnisvolle Wirkung aus. Doch worum geht es beim Fotografieren des Unsichtbaren überhaupt?

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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

Dabei heißt Infrarot zu fotografieren nicht immer nur Schwarz-Weiß zu fotografieren. Je nach verwendetem Filter lassen sich Farb Infrarot Aufnahmen mit sehr abwechslungsreichen und beeindruckenden (Falsch-) Farben kreieren. Sobald nicht nur das reine Infrarotlicht über 830 nm auf den Kamerasensor trifft, sondern noch eine Mischung von Wellenlängen aus dem sichtbaren Spektralbereich hinzu kommt, ergeben sich in dem digitalen Bild Farbinformationen. Diese sind natürlich zu 100 % artifiziell und haben nichts mit der tatsächlichen Natur von Infrarot Licht zu tun. Dennoch lassen sich mit dieser Art von “Artefakten” atemberaubende Stimmungen einfangen.

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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.