Infrared Photography Made Easy With A Digital Camera

In the past, infrared photography was difficult due to technological limits. In this type of photography, the image sensor or film that’s utilized is sensitive to the infrared light. Due to this special consideration, there was a lot of hassle involved.

For instance, you had to deal with black-and-white processing, special film handling, and the inability to see your results until the entire roll was exposed and the photos were printed. Thankfully, today, all this has changed as digital photography has made taking infrared pictures a lot easier.

Infrared Is All About Ambience

To the untrained eye, monochrome photos in infrared might appear exactly like regular black and white pictures. However, keep your eye on the photo a bit longer, and you’ll start to see unique effects pop out. For example, objects that are normally bright in visible light (such as the sky) appear darker in infrared, and some objects that usually appear darker (such as green foliage) actually get a bright glow. The end result is simply an unforgettable feeling from looking at such a photo because it’s both eerie and unique.

What To Photograph In Infrared?

Infrared enthusiasts generally believe that the most effective and pleasing subjects to shoot are simply sunny outdoor landscapes. Particular objects to include in the shot are mundane things like water, grass, fluffy clouds and foliage. Sunlight in the evening and morning features more infrared than during midday, so target those times of the day for your shots.

Picking The Right Digital Camera

Getting the right digital camera is one of the keys to success with infrared photography, but how do you know which to pick? This is made tricky by the fact that digital cameras feature special, infrared light-blocking filters on their sensors. Ask any infrared photography enthusiast today, and he’ll likely tell you that most new digital cameras don’t accommodate infrared photography very well.

That has to do with the fact that camera makers want the infrared stopped before it gets to the camera’s sensor. This is in marked contrast to the earliest digital cameras on the market, which let in quite a good amount of infrared light. One of the most revered such cameras was the Olympus C-2020Z. To have an effective digital camera for infrared today, you’ll have to make some adjustments.

There Are Three Choices

This is not to say that you won’t get amazing infrared results with today’s digital cameras, though. On the contrary, today’s digital cameras can be excellent for infrared photography. You just have to remove the infrared light-blocking filter on their sensors, purchase a digital camera without such a filter, or use an infrared filter on the lens.

Some digital cameras like the Sigma SD14 make it easy to remove the infrared light-blocking filter. All it takes is removing the lens to get at the filter behind it and then pushing said filter up to release it. The Sigma SD14 is exemplary in this regard because many other cameras require professional conversions to remove the filter.

You can also purchase a digital camera with no infrared light-blocking filter at all. However, such a camera can be quite pricy and somewhat hard to find. Two examples are the Fuji IS-1 and the Fuji IS Pro, both of which have been on the market for a few years already.

Your third option is to use an infrared filter to prohibit all visible light from entering your digital camera’s sensor. This should give you the best infrared photography results (assuming you don’t spend for a very expensive digital camera with no infrared light-blocking filter). Most of the time, you can easily attach this filter to the lens, but if you have a digital compact model, you may require a lens adapter tube.

Setting Your Exposure

Now that you have an idea of what style of digital camera to use, you’re all set to take some pictures. Simply put, you should expect to deal with relatively long exposures. Look at it this way: On average, an infrared filter together with your digital camera’s infrared light-blocking filter is going to allow just 0.1 percent of any incoming light. For instance, a brighter scene that needs 1/500 s at F/8 with visible light is going to take at least 1 s longer at F/4. This is true of most digital cameras.

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