Infrared Photography

I started infrared photography just over a decade ago.  This is how I got started:

1. I pointed my TV remote at the lens of my Canon Powershot G3 and could see the infrared signal light blinking on the camera’s screen.

2. I purchased a filter that ONLY allowed IR light to enter the lens, and bingo! I was able to start taking infrared photos. The filter looks painted black because no visible light can pass through it. The Canon G3 had a filter adapter that attaches over the lens and I had to order the right size filter to fit on the end of it.

Most newer digital cameras have a “hot mirror” or “low pass filter” in front of the sensor which limits the amount of infrared light reaching the sensor. This is to prevent the invisible IR light messing with the color and white balance of the visible light of the images. My Canon G3 has one of these, because I have to put my camera on a tripod and use longer exposures, but it must be a weak one compared to most, because I can get some pretty cool looking infrared photos.  A friend of mine bought a Canon G3 about a year after I did and he was not able to get decent results using my IR filter. My guess is that Canon updated the G3 with a stronger hot mirror.

Here is one of my first IR images, taken near Jonesboro, Arkansas:

Big Brother & Twins

Big Brother & Twins

The Canon G3 was a pretty neat camera in 2002. It had a 4MP sensor and a f/2.0 lens. I took some nice photos with it before I got a DSLR. Now I only use it for infrared photos. The limitations are a relatively small CCD sensor that isn’t as large or sensitive to low light as newer higher level digicams.

Here is another picture I took at about 9,000 feet above sea level near Mt. Baldy in southern California.



Infrared photos have a very strong magenta cast and have to be converted to black and white, or other colors, in the computer to be pleasing to the eye. Here is an IR photo of an entrance to a Japanese garden in Olympia, Washington. I did a sort of sepia tone treatment to it.

Yashiro Gate

Yashiro Gate

One thing to keep in mind with infrared photography is that you get the most dramatic results from foliage in direct sunlight. In the above picture you can see that the leaves in the shade are rather dull. It would have been better to have direct sunlight on the gate, but since it faces north, I don’t know if that ever happens.

Here is another IR shot I took on Vancouver Island, Canada. I hand colored parts of the image, just to make it more interesting. I’m definitely no pro, and I’ve seen color infrared photographs that people have done a much better color job.

Lone Shadow

Lone Shadow

Dirt, wood, water, and sky tend to show up much darker than normal in infrared photographs, so mixing these elements with blazing foliage makes for great contrast!  This last shot is a good example. I shot it at Capitol Lake Park in Olympia, Washington.

Into the Curve

Into the Curve

There are companies who will convert your camera for dedicated IR photography, but it costs a good chunk of change!  I am considering getting my old EOS 10D converted, since I have a 50D now.  This would mean I don’t have to do all my IR work on tripods while squinting at a tiny screen.

I think IR is fascinating because we are making images with light that we can’t see with the naked eye. The images have a unique and striking look when compared to normal black and white photographs.


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