Photo Tip: Infrared Photography

I became interested in infrared during my explorations into black and white and as part of fine art. I am still one of “those” that like the smell of chemicals and spend hours in a darkroom. I still develop my own black and white film and print my own prints. Through the years I became interested in alternative processing techniques such as cyanotype, van dyke brown, salt printing, gum bichromate, palladium platinum and also infrared.

Photoshop is a wonderful tool for digital photographers and I when I first saw a hand printed infrared print I became hooked.  The visible spectrum for the eye is between 380 – 730 nanometers (wavelengths) see fig a.  The photographic spectrum includes ultraviolet, the visible spectrum and then near infrared. The visible spectrum includes colours such as violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.


(Book: Advance Infrared Photography Handbook. Laurie White Hayball, 2001, Amherst Media) Visible Spectrum of Colours.

Finding Infrared film in South Africa is impossible and I import my film from digtaltruth. ( I shoot with 120 mm and 35mm EFKE IR film and Rollei Infrared IR400 with a Hoya R72 filter. You can use the Rollei also as a normal black and white film. If you are a die hard film fundi, you will know that bracketing is the best way to go.  I learned the hard way by playing around with different ISO’s, shutter speeds and apertures. I find with EFKE that shooting at an ISO 0f 25, shutter speeds of 2secs – 4secs and then bracket from f8 / f11/ and f16 gives the best results.  The big drawback is that you have to load into the camera and developing tanks in total darkness. It needs to be warm and sunny, I usually shoot when it is at it warmest, but you can shoot at low sun levels.

Looking at a normal monochrome print taken in infrared and another in black and white you will see some prints reflect Infrared better than others. Shooting green foliage will show the effect at its best. You cannot always predict what an image will look like when using IR.  Green leaves typically become very white, and the sky becomes very dark. Digital cameras have a special infrared-blocking filter in front of the light-sensitive CCD array. If you have an old digital camera that you do not use, you can have the IR filter removed and shoot permanently in IR.  Note that your images will look red and you can convert them further in Photoshop or Lightroom.  Colour infrared is a fun way of playing around with digital images.  This is a wonderful way to explore your inner creativity and to give another dimension on your photos.

There are wonderful books on the market on infra red photography.