Looking at the Wood Effect in IR Photography

Today’s post by Joe Farace

Commemorating Four-thirds Day to Celebrate the Joy of Photography

One Tuesday I mentioned the Wood Effect in Infrared Photography and promised an explanation; Here it is…. With infrared photography you’re capturing images with invisible light, which is why comparisons to traditional photography are difficult.

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Few things beat a beautiful sunrise photographed in color when you want to create a dramatic image. The same scene photographed in infrared may be disappointing unless there’s some  IR reflective subject matter (we’re talking about deciduous trees here) to add interest. That’s because of the “Wood Effect,” which is the bright, white reproduction of the chlorophyll layer of deciduous plants. The effect is named after infrared photography pioneer Robert W. Wood (1868-1955) and not after the material wood which does not strongly reflect infrared.

If the lighting in a scene looks great for standard photographs, then it’s probably not going to work for infrared. But don’t take my word for it—you need to experiment for yourself because you’ll never know for sure what the results will be.

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There are no “official” subjects for digital IR photography; Please read my post Best Subjects for Infrared Photography’ for my take on this. Summertime landscapes with leafy trees, lots of grass, and puffy clouds make a great infrared picture but don’t be confined to landscape photography. Some of the artists profiled in my out-of-print (but available used) book, “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,” like to shoot people in IR. Any subject is fair game if you want to produce IR images. My  advice is to experiment and discover what works. You may be surprised at the variety of subject matter you can find for infrared photographs.

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