Years ago shooting infrared (IR) was a labour of love. Special film, stored at special temperatures and a very hit-n-miss affair. Often it took a lot of experimentation and a lot of darkroom skills and patience to get a result. I tried years ago and it proved too time consuming for me; enter the alternative…. Good old digital. We have been given a whole new lease of life when delving into this form of picture making so it’s never been easier to ‘have a go’. In this blog I’ve covered the very basics to whet your appetite but have included a couple of links for further detailed information; give it a go, your you’ll love it.
To get started, you have one of two options. The first involves using a special filter over the lens and shooting away and the second involves sending a camera body off to be converted to taking IR photos only, let’s compare both.
Method (1): Using a Hoya R72 filter on the lens
A great way to start is to buy something like the trusted Hoya R72 filter. As these filters are expensive it’s best to buy the largest filter size for your lenses and then add ‘stepping down’ rings to fit all of your kit. Most likely it will be around 72mm to start with. General advice is that because they are expensive, buy the best to reduce any problems you may have in post processing. The main drawback is the long exposure times needed for each shoot and also difficulty in being sure of your focus. Not all lenses sadly will work well with IR filters so you need to run a small test to check for what’s called ‘hot spots’. These are unwelcome white spots over the image which have to be repaired later. It may also be the case that the lens is not if a quality to give the best results. The best way to see if your lens is suitable is to take the TV remote and shine it directly into the lens, if you can see the red light then that an indication that all will work well. This is the first ‘easy check to carry out. An example for me was that the Fuji 18mm proved not very good but the 23mm gave better results. There are also charts online which list the good, bad and ugly lenses for IR by manufacturers, check out this link for starters. https://blog.robsheaphotography.com/infrared-lenses/
The advantage of going the filter route is that underneath, you still have the same camera as before, the disadvantage is that it’s much more difficult to take a shot and most probably you’ll need a tripod all the time.
Method (2): Having a camera converted to shoot IR only.
This involves send your camera of to a company who can remove the colour filter which covers the IR information to reach your cameras sensor. Main advantage being you can carry on taking photos very the same as before, exposure can be much the same as before and you seldom need to use a tripod. The main disadvantage, your camera can no longer take anything other than infrared photographs and it can be expensive (around £250) to have a camera converted but ease of use is greatly enhanced. An IR image records the heat radiating from a subject and therefore you end up with a number of choices in what kind of conversation you have. For a B&W only conversion you will see white foliage, white fluffy clouds and deep black skies. Given that IR spectrum measures heat it recorded in nanometers and anything above 720nm is the place to start when requesting a B&W conversion; I’ve gone for 830nm. You can also have ‘colour only’ and / or a ‘full spectrum’ (i.e. can take both colour and B&W but with reduced depth) conversion, each offer unique possibilities and there is no right or wrong image you need to produce. As I say, you will need to carry out more research into how images are produced but to start you off, you could follow these excellent two links. The most recognised conversion company is lifepixel in the US. I’ve used the service twice and it’s spot on. For excellent guidance on post processing your images you are advised to check out this YouTube channel by Rob Shea. https://youtu.be/LB7kb9stK70. For conversions go to this link, lifepixel.com. (I don’t make any commission by the way, I’ve just found these to be the best)
PS. Most conversion companies will also sell converted camera which are basically second-hand models revamped. I’ve used two Fuji XE-1s (16meg) that work just fine…… You pay your money, you take your choice……
Thanks for reading
Terence Jones ARPS
A photography enthusiast with a long and varied interest in taking pictures.
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