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An Introduction to Infrared Digital Photography by Chris Folsom.
Infrared photography allows us to see the world in a way that our naked eyes (and traditional cameras) can not. The infrared spectrum exists beyond the spectrum of visible light, but it is always present and can have a very dramatic effect on your images when properly captured.
Modern digital camera sensors are already capable of photographing in the infrared spectrum. Camera manufacturers use a special filter on the sensor to block most (but not all) IR light in order to improve the quality of the visible light being recorded. Despite this, there are several options available for capturing images in infrared:
As previously mentioned, cameras using a “night vision” mode are typically only capable of monochrome infrared images. Using traditional post-processing techniques, these photos can be converted to a variety of tones and contrasts… much like typical B&W image conversion.
Cameras using an IR filter or that have been specially modified to exclusively shoot in infrared are capable of recording different wavelengths within the IR spectrum which is interpreted as colors by the camera sensor. These colors don’t typically have as much variety or saturation as visible light, but the effect can still be very interesting. Here is an example of an IR image right out of the camera, with the normally blue skies shown as a deep red:
Using software like Photoshop, the red and blue channels can be flipped so that the colors are a little closer to what we are traditionally used to seeing while still retaining some of the other-worldly effects.
What makes for a good infrared photograph? There are no set rules… one of my favorite aspects of IR is the unexpected quality it brings to images. You are never quite sure how things will look when captured in the infrared spectrum.
Typically though, the biggest differences happen with organic material. Grass, trees, people… they all appear much differently in infrared and can be particularly fun to photograph.
In a future article, I will get into more detail regarding the IR photography process and discuss some of the post-processing steps involved. Until then, enjoy some of the amazing infrared photographs available on Flickr in groups like Converted Digital Infrared Cameras and Digital Infrared.
His photos have been published in newspapers and on numerous websites.
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