Adding Color to Infrared Images

Creating the “Blue Sky Effect” in Infrared Photography is not difficult. You start by having a cameras converted for IR capture using the “Enhanced Color” filter and then follow this up with some rather basic Photoshop techniques (shown below.) PS: I’m not saying this is the only way to accomplish this effect, just how I do it. If you prefer another method; go for it.

But as I discovered capturing the correct exposure is trickier than with typical IR black & white imaging. Here are a few tips that will help. Start by shooting close to high noon as you can. That’s the peak time for IR anyway but, based on my experience, seems more critical. What you want to end up with is a file that looks like the below RAW file, with clear tonal separation between the foreground and the sky. You may need to bracket your exposures to do that but with an auto bracket feature that’s easy enough to do.

step1

Step 1: Open an image. In the above case it was made with a Panasonic Lumix G6 that had been converted by LifePixel. I used a Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens with an exposure of 1/400 sec at f/11 and ISO 400.

step2Step 2: Next, apply a New Adjustment Layer> Channel Mixer. Select Red from the Output Channel pop-up menu. Change the value in the Red Channel to zero and the Blue channel’s value to 100.

Step 3: Now, Select Blue from the Output Channel pop-up menu. Change the value in the Blue Channel to zero and the Red channel’s value to 100, basically flipping the blue/red colors. stepo3aDepending on the particular filter conversion you may want to clean up the image’s neutral colors. To do this, I prefer using PictoColor’s iCorrect EditLab Pro but you can leave it alone too.

Step 4: (Optional) I sometimes like to tweak contrast and colors using Vivenza from Google’s Nik collection. Viola! You’re done; it’s that easy. But you can skip this step too, if you like.

step4

You can have your  mirrorless camera converted for IR capture, keeping in mind that this makes it an IR-only camera. You can save a few days (7 vs 10) when converting your camera to infrared from LifePixel by using  coupon code “farace.”