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What is Infrared Photography?

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

What is Infrared Photography?

The human eye can see wavelengths of 400nm-700nm which is the range from purple to red. Infrared is the light beyond 700nm. When you think about it this way, infrared photography could be considered a look into the invisible world.

IR photography can be achieved with infrared film or a digital camera. It involves light in the 700nm to 1200 nm range. It is often used in fine art photography as it provides a look that is surreal and otherworldly.

Read on to find out more about infrared photography and how to master the technique.

Why Use Infrared Photography?

Infrared photography produces a look that’s ideal for fine art aesthetics. It can make trees look bright white or yellow, so their leaves appear frozen. This is known as the ‘Wood Effect; named after Robert W. wood who’s considered the father of infrared photography.

It can also give skies a vibrant red or blue cast. It can add a dramatic contrast to black and white photography. It softens the look of skin making blemishes disappear making it ideal for wedding photography.

Infrared light is also used in other applications. For instance, it can spot counterfeit money and see through spills for document recovery. It is also often used for taking pictures of stars as some will only be visible when viewed through the IR or UV spectrum.

Other applications include agricultural and ecological plant analysis, medical applications, forensics, low light shooting, game hunting and more.

How do You Take IR Photos?

There are three basic ways to do IR photography. These include:

Infrared Film: Infrared film was the original way to take IR pictures and it was the only way to shoot infrared for some time. It involves using a special IR film and an IR filter over the lens. Special developing is also required. This type of technique can still be utilized today, but the film is difficult to find.

Digital Camera with an Infrared Filter: Modern digital sensors are sensitive to wavelengths between 300 and 1200nm which makes them capable of capturing IR photography. IR cut filters are placed over the sensors to block UV and IR rays to preserve the color. You can also get the effect on some cameras by placing a 720 IR filter over the lens and shooting with a long exposure. This is the cheapest way to get IR photos, but a long exposure is prone to motion blur, exposure and focus bracketing and offers fewer filter options.

Infrared Converted Camera: Another option is to remove the IR cut filter over the sensor and replace it with an IR pass filter to make the camera sensitive to infrared light. This eliminates the need for long exposure techniques and lens filters and produces sharper photos that allow for more lens options. However, it’s more expensive than an infrared filter.

Infrared photography can get you some amazing results. Now that you know how to achieve the effect, you can get as creative as you dare to be. Where will you let the medium take you?

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