Infrared Photography

I recently went to an inspiring talk on infrared photography.

Now you might ask – what on earth is that? Or why would you want to do it?

The answer is that (i) you can take better contrast images, particularly of buildings in bright sunlight, (ii) you can create some amazing and surreal effects, (iii) with care you can create some beautiful black and white or monochrome images. Infrared photography captures the infrared light that is emitted from plants, buildings, even water. Some of the effects include: water going dark, foliage going bright, and human skin becoming translucent (and showing veins!).

Infrared photography utilises the band of light that is just outside the spectrum of visible light with a wavelength of around 700nm to 900nm. Technically this is borderline between visible and infrared. It would be more accurate to call this range near-infrared, as infrared extends from 700 nm to 1,000,000 nm.

Visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum which includes very high frequency/short-wavelength Gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet, through the visible range, extending out to lower frequency/longer wavelength infrared, microwaves and radio waves. Visible light includes radiation with wavelengths between 400 nm and 700 nm.

As cameras are generally designed for visible light, most of the have a filter that blocks out infrared light. Usually, people have their cameras modified, removing this filter which is attached in front of the camera’s image sensor (chip) and replacing it with one that will let through (only) infrared wavelengths. This modification is (i) permanent and (ii) means that the camera will no longer capture visible light. it is also fairly expensive at around £300 or $300-$400 US.

Luckily, some camera manufacturers don’t fit these filters, meaning that the camera can register infrared wavelengths. In order to make an image out of these (i) the visible light needs to be filtered out and (ii) the remaining near infrared light needs to be captured over a reasonably long period – e.g. using the bulb setting for exposures that may be over 30 seconds, and a tripod. I say luckily, because my Fuji X100 camera can be used to take infrared images simply by adding an inexpensive screw on filter (49mm) to the lens.


So I now have a Hoya 49mm Infrared R72 (720nm) filter and also a 850nm 49m IR filter from Zomei. I’m not sure if/when I’ll need the Zomei; so far the Hoya has worked fine. I have also purchased Elements+ – a £12 add-on to Photoshop Elements. This allows channel mixing, which is a tool that you can use for

I have also purchased Elements+ – a £12 add-on to Photoshop Elements. This allows channel mixing, which is a tool that you can use for Infra red photography. That said, I’m not yet convinced that it has a big advantage when shooting infrared on the X100. By that I mean Lightroom can convert the images to black and white. You can also use an infrared simulating filter on non-IR images…

There’s lots of IR tutorials online. One quick and easy suggestion seems to be to use autotone in Photoshop as a start point.

Here’s the results so far: