Get a Fresh Start with Infrared

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I once received an e-mail from a reader asking “why do you do infrared photography, when regular photography is already so hard?” The sort answer is because it’s fun. And yes, because it captures light that is invisible it can be challenging but if you use the search function on this blog (and our sister blog) looking for posts about “infrared” it will help take some of the mystery out of it.

Your eyes usually see a range of light from approximately 400 to 700 nanometers. (A nanometer or nm is a metric unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter.) A digital camera’s sensor sees light in wavelengths from 350 to 1,000nm. Most digital cameras have a low pass filter placed directly in front of the sensor that allows low frequency light visible to the human eye to pass through to the sensor where it’s captured but blocks unwanted light from infrared and ultraviolet spectrums, preventing them from polluting a photograph’s color.

caption: Shot with an IR-converted Panasonic Lumix G6 and 12-32mm lens (at 12mm) with an exposure of 1/250 sec at f/11 and ISO 400. Processed using the ‘blue sky’ technique explained here.

If you have your camera modified for IR-only capture, the low pass filter is removed replacing it with a piece of optical glass that has a filter that only permits light of specific wavelengths to pass is installed. LifePixel, for example, offers several different filter options. For the image shown, it uses the Enhanced Filter that allows more color to pass and is especially suited for color IR photography with great saturation and color range. Black & White looks good too although with a bit less contrast without adjustments.

If you would like to experience some of the same thrill of discovery that occurred during the first phase of your photographic education, my suggestion is that you never stop exploring. Try some new things. Maybe it’s infrared photography but whatever you do try something that’s outside your normal comfort zone. Stop taking the same picture over and over again and try something new.


My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon for under $15. 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.