Shooting Infrared

I’ve recently taken a few pictures with my infrared converted Canon Powershot G10 so I thought I’d talk a bit about IR photography today.



Taking IR pictures is possible with a regular DSLR using an IR filter on the end of your lens but it requires very long shutter speeds to achieve results. This is because your camera sensor has an IR blocking filter that manages to achieve >95% removal. When you add an IR filter to the front of your camera, this blocks all light except Infrared but since your sensor only registers a small amount you need a looooooooonnnnngggg exposure to get enough light into the scene.

IR field and trees

IR Field Tree 2

My old Canon Powershot G10 was sitting in a drawer not being used, and so I decided to have it professionally converted to IR by these wonderful people. They take the camera apart remove the hot mirror filter and replace it with a different filter so that you can detect infra-red. Depending on the type of images you want to create, they can install a filter of the correct wavelength. I went for 665nm for the chance to do both false colour and b/w.

An IR image straight out of camera has a tobacco tone where you’d normally expect to see blue, and a kind of greyish tone where you would see green.

Pirbright orig

These have a pleasing look in and of themselves, but sometimes it’s nice to bring back the blue which is done in Photoshop using a Channel Mixer adjustment layer and swapping the red and blue channels (set the red channel to 100% blue and the blue channel to 100% red). This gives a blue/ pink image like;

Pirbright swap

Of course you can subject your IR pictures to the same manipulation in PS too. Here I’ve channel swapped and then generated a much more contrasty image with a couple of Overlay layers;


And here I’ve taken the original tobacco tones but used cross-processing to accentuate the yellow in the highlights and add blue to the shadows.

SF Bay

You can also switch from tobacco/ grey or blue/ pink to black/ white as I have done here – a copy of the first image at the top of the page but converted to b/w.

IR Work BW

IR works well on landscapes and architecture shots. I’ve never found it work well with people – they tend to age by about 40 years – but maybe that’s due to the wavelength I’ve chosen as some people do advocate taking portraits in IR.

Converting a camera isn’t the cheapest thing in the World, but it certainly makes for some interesting images and if you have an old compact or DSLR sitting around and you feel like adding Infrared to your photographic spectrum then why not give it a go?

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