Basics of Getting Started in Infrared Photography

Basics of Getting Started in Infrared Photography

So many students ask me how their images can stand apart from the millions of photographs made each and every day? They also are looking for a way to give voice to their vision in ways they haven’t been able to express with standard digital imagery. Does that resonate with you? If so, why not explore a medium that is artsy, unique and fun. When I first learned about infrared photography from Ansel Adams in the 70s, you had to have a great knowledge of technical skills to successfully work with infrared film. With digital, even the novice photographer can easily access infrared. 

Infrared captures the nonvisible spectrum, so your images will look surreal, unique and moody. Nature, landscapes, plants, foliage and people are wonderful subjects for infrared photography, because they reflect infrared light differently yielding white foliage or ethereally smooth skin. With standard digital photography, summer midday is a rough time to photograph because of the contrast. Infrared, however, loves lots of light and contrast.

I’ve got to say I don’t know one person who has tried infrared and didn’t fall in love with it. Here are some resources for you to get started on your infrared journey.

Equipment: Filters exist for the front of your lens that allow you to try infrared; however, for the best images and easier shooting, you need to convert a camera to dedicated infrared. I recommend you use an old camera that has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust. I am sure we all have a few of those lying around. If not, consider buying a used camera online and converting it. This is a great way to get started without a huge monetary commitment. You might want to take a look at Infrared Photography: Artistic Techniques for Brilliant Images to help you decide which part of the infrared spectrum you are interested in capturing. I use a Canon 6D camera converted to 720nm, which is the infrared spectrum used by many professionals. With this spectrum, you can get some color if that is your goal. Personally, I like black and white infrared the best, and 720nm yields stunning black and white images. Be sure to use a reputable, established company to perform your camera conversion. I recommend: Kolari Vision and Life Pixel. They have charts on their websites that compare the results of the different conversions.

Education: Here is a link to 3 free videos done in conjunction with B&H Photo Video and Skylum that will help guide you on your infrared journey. All of these videos talk to how infrared sees, the difference in the conversion options, custom white balance, histograms, and a much more to get you started.

Post-production: I recommend Skylum’s Luminar because of its user friendly, powerful design. Our Infrared Mastery Presets for Luminar make post-processing even easier.

I hope to see you at one of my upcoming infrared workshops in Providence, Rhode Island, or at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.

Infrared Photography could change your artistic life!!! Just saying.