Proper Exposure for Infrared Photography

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Because of the nearly white reproduction of most vegetation’s chlorophyll, infrared black-and-white photographs render landscapes as if they were glowing, moonlit, or immersed in an extraterrestrial light. Because exposure meters— hand held or in-camera— are sensitive to infrared films, it’s difficult to calculate exact exposures but that doesn’t mean you can try, especially with IR-converted digital cameras that provide instant feedback.Two subjects that appear equally bright in normal (visible) light might reflect infrared radiation at significantly different rates and have different brightness.

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My Panasonic Lumix G5 (converted for IR-only capture by LifePixel)  tends to slightly underexpose even though image on the LCD  looks perfect. On the other hand, my Panasonic Lumix G6, used to make the above photograph, and also converted by LifePixel with the Enhanced IR filter tends to slightly overexposes the image. Either way, it’s a good idea to bracket a series of three to five different exposures because you can’t always count on your LCD screen giving you the kind of result you’ll see when viewing the files on a calibrated monitor. Some mirrorless cameras offer a built-in bracketing function but even if your camera doesn’t have a bracket function it should have an Exposure Compensation feature that will let you adjust exposures on one-half or one-third (my preference) stops while in the various automatic exposure modes.

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Tip: If all fails, most cameras offer a manual mode and you don’t need a hand held exposure meter to get started in manual mode. Typically I look through the lens and see what the suggested exposure is in Program mode, then transfer that shutter speed and aperture to the camera after it’s set in manual mode—assuming it has one. Now you are free to change shutter speed or aperture to bracket exposures however you like.

If you want to save a few bucks when converting your camera to infrared when ordering a conversion from LifePixel, use the coupon code “farace.”