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Infra-Red Photography Tips

Infra-Red Photography Tips - Use your camera to see what they eye can't.

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Infra-red photography's not everyone's cup of tea but as it's summer, now's the perfect time to try to learn to love this art.

Castle Moil
Castle Moil by Peter Bargh

Infra-red photography basically sees what the eye can't so scenes which you might think look boring and not photography worthy come out surprisingly well. This is because infra-red photography works by photographing wavelengths just beyond the deep reds of the visible spectrum which is why these photos have an eerie, surreal look about them.

Gear Suggestions:

If you're really series about infra-red photography try modifying your camera into an infra-red model. You can do this yourself but as with everything, it's best left to the professionals. The advantage of this is that you can shoot hand—held, at lower ISOs without filters which makes it easier to change lenses and focus. However, for those of you who don't want to be shooting infra-red images forever you can use filters to create the infra-red effect. If you find your filter lets a little too much light in try one that's a little stronger to see if it blocks out more normal light waves.

Camera and filter chosen, you now need a good tripod as when using filters, exposure times are much longer and not really suitable for working hand-held. Check out Manfrotto's website to find a tripod to suit your needs or enter our exclusive competition where you have the chance to win a Manfrotto 290 Series tripod.

When it comes to lenses, some will perform better than others. For example, you may find some wide angles leave bright spots. These spots are also exaggerated when you use smaller apertures so if you have a range of lenses to play with, it's worth experimenting to find the best lens and aperture for you.


When you're fitting the filter remember that all light must pass through it and not leak in from the sides. If this does happen it causes flare which can ruin your image so just watch out. The other problem you have is focusing as the filter you use is almost completely black so any work on composition has to be done before the filter is attached making candids or watching a scene for the pinnacle moment hard. However, the advantage of using a digital camera is you can see your results on screen so you can sort out any focusing disasters or exposure problems straight away.

Always shoot RAW as this will convert better to black and white during post production and use custom white balance, taking a reading off a white sheet of paper or card. Keep an eye on your histogram and read this, not your image on the back of your camera when you're thinking about exposures.

This type of photography works best on a sunny day when the sun's bright and overhead. Landscapes work well as does shooting into the sun, particularly if you're on the edge of water. Trees are popular subjects as the leaves turn bright, white under infra-red light which look great contrasted against a dark sky. Take portraits and see how skin's given a soft glow or try using objects that don't emit infra-red radiation to add interest to your images. Avoid flowers though as these lose all sense of life under infra-red and appear flat. It's all about experimenting because as we said previously, the ordinary can suddenly look extraordinary with infra-red.

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ElSid 10 8 United Kingdom
23 Oct 2013 4:48PM
It should be pointed out that not all digital are suitable for IR using a filter. My EOS 40D for instance will not produce a decent IR result no matter how strong the lighting - foliage ends up just as grey as it usually does from converting a full colour image. I also have a much older EOS D30 which has a better response and delivers a true IR image albeit at quite a long exposure time. The best of all is my Nikon D50 which delivers a very good IR result. Indeed the camera is so sensitive that exposures in even moderate light rarely exceeds a second or two even at low ISO - the downside is that in sunny weather black objects can come out a rather muddy brown...

On the whole older cameras seem to generally be more IR sensitive than current models though this is by no means a universal truth.

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