Infrared: Process or Not Process

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Why do you shoot infrared, when regular photography is already so hard”—question from a reader.

My feeling is that infrared photography is as difficult as you want to make it. For example, I was surprised there was a SOOC movement within the world of infrared photography.

Out of the box, an IR-converted camera will produce RAW and JPEG files that look almost identical having a heavy magenta cast as can be seen in left-hand image below. If you take the time to create a custom white balance for your converted camera, you will end up with JPEG images that look like the right-hand half of the below image, with a blue color cast that intensifies or lessens depending on the image’s IR content. It is this aesthetic that the SOOC people seemed to have embraced with open arms, perhaps because they see this version as the purest form of infrared capture.

As someone who has been shooting infrared imagery since the film days, I prefer to use a monochrome approach to processing IR image files. What I do is forget about custom white balance and set the Photo Style menu to Monochrome but set capture options to RAW+JPEG. This setup gives me a preview in the viewfinder and LCD screen that’s black and white, while retaining the magenta-hued RAW file for conversion using Silver Efex Pro.

An approach that mixes bluer hues with monochrome is possible when using filter choices such as LifePixel’s Enhanced IR that I had done to my Panasonic Lumix G6. One again, you end up with a magenta-hued RAW file but by using simple processing techniques show here, you create an image that is black and white and blue all over.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that your approach to processing infrared images is just that—yours. The discipline of shooting infrared photographs is an inclusive one that welcomes all kind of ways to process—or not process—their imagesIR.book.

 

My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon for under $17. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new copies under $6 and used copies for less than three bucks.