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Infrared Photography & IR Filters Part 2

Infrared Photography & IR Filters Part 2  - In part 2, Joe Ipsilanti takes a look at the practical part of infrared of photography - capture & processing.

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General Photography


Here's part 2 of Joe Ipsilanti's guide on infrared photography and using infrared filters. In this feature, we look at capturing and processing infrared images. If you missed part one, you can find it here: Understanding Infrared Photography & IR Filters Part 1

 

Shooting 

Now let's talk about shooting techniques. Given that in IR photography you often have to shoot with longer exposures, the techniques applied are largely similar to the techniques used when high-density ND filters are on the front of our lenses.

To start, switch the camera to manual mode, turn off image stabilisation, make sure you're shooting in RAW and fix the ISO sensitivity to the minimum value. Also, some people recommend switching off noise reduction. Given that IR shots often have problems with sharpness, set the aperture to the maximum (but don't forget about the diffraction limit for your camera) and always use a tripod. 

Pick your composition and use autofocus to focus on the desired object then switch to manual, preferably in-camera as if you turn off the autofocus on the lens (by the switch or by shifting the focus ring, depending on the lens model), you may accidentally shift the focus position.

Next, carefully screw the IR filter onto the lens and use a remote control to fire the shutter or, alternatively, set a 2-second time delay.This will prevent the camera shaking. 

If you're shooting with a DSLR camera, you should use Live View mode because the optical viewfinder will not show anything. In addition, Live View is often able to show the final picture with the option of exposure compensation. However, do note that the exposure meter may work incorrectly in the IR range so take a few test shots at different exposure steps before you capture your final image. To alter the exposure, use the shutter speed settings.

Unfortunately, there is no calculation chart for exposure times when working with IR filters as the density of IR filters from different manufacturers differ significantly. Camera modification is also important, because the volume of the residual IR light will depend on the intensity of the manufacturers fit in cameras to reduce the amount of IR light that can reach the camera's sensor. 

 

RAW Processing 

After capturing your image, you will notice that it looks rather terrible as it has red tones. However, this is soon fixed in post editing. 

 

Original RAW-image after shooting with the IR-filter

Original RAW image after shooting with the IR filter

 

 IR image after deep processing (coloured version)

 IR image after deep processing (coloured version)

 

Let's first consider the most simple method of RAW processing that will give us results immediately using only the camera or 1-click in a photo editor. For those who want to produce really high-quality images, take a look at the 'Manual RAW processing in Photoshop/Lightroom' section of this feature.

Before we go on, please note that all of the following techniques have been taken from various resources.

 

Black & White RAW Processing In-Camera 

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, IR photography is essentially a genre of black and white photography. Therefore, the easiest way to process the images is to save your RAW files in black & white. 

Many cameras, especially entry level ones, have art-filter pre-sets and as a result,  the 'red' RAW file can be processed directly inside the camera by applying the black & white art filter to the image. The result, of course, will be different from those that we get using other techniques, but it will still look unusual. 

 

Original RAW image after shooting with the IR filter

Original RAW image after shooting with the IR filter

 

IR image after processing in the camera

IR image after processing in the camera

 

Black & White RAW Processing In Photo Editors 

You can achieve even better results with RAW processing than using the camera software. You can adjust the exposure, contrast and manage the light and dark tones.

 

IR image after processing in the camera

IR image after processing in the camera

 

IR image after processing in the photo editor

IR image after processing in the photo editor

 

Some may say that simply converting the image from colour to black & white is not quite correct and they're partly right because how the final image looks will depend a lot on how each colour is converted. However, in our case, we have an image that's just red therefore, fine-tuning each colour isn't necessary.

 

Automated RAW Processing In Photoshop 

Now we'll look at creating partially coloured IR shots. This is more difficult to do as you have to adjust colour channels but thankfully, there's a quick method. On the Kolari Vision website, there is a script for Photoshop which you can install and use.  All you need is to open your 'red' RAW image and apply 1 of 5 scenarios. 

 

Original RAW image after shooting with the IR filter

Original RAW image after shooting with the IR filter

IR image after applying the Photoshop script

IR image after applying the Photoshop script

 

Manual RAW Processing In Photoshop / Lightroom 

After capture, we are left with a red coloured RAW file and to edit it, we need the Adobe DNG Profile Editor. There are versions for Windows and Mac as well as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom editors.

 

Step 1: Making The Camera Profile 

Now we have to make the camera profile (this is a one-time process). First, you need to convert any RAW files from your camera to a DNG file. If you do it in Photoshop, after you open the RAW file, you will see a dialogue box for the 'Camera Raw' plug-in which you need to click the 'Save As' button in to save the file as a DNG. If you are using Lightroom the procedure is even easier, just open the RAW-file, open the 'Export' menu and choose the DNG file format.

Next, you need to run the 'DNG Profile Editor' and open the DNG file. In the opened window choose the 'Color Matches' tab and move the temperature slider to the far left (most cold) position. 

After this, go to 'File > Export [camera name] IR profile' and save the profile in any temporary directory (you can use any profile name, but it should be clear for you). A similar procedure should be applied for all cameras you plan to use for IR shooting and finally, the profiles should be saved in a folder so 'Lightroom' and 'Photoshop' can see them. 

It should be noted that Adobe often changes the location of the profile folders for new versions of its applications. We will give the path location for the most recent versions but if they do not work with your current version, we recommend you take a look at the Adobe support forum. 

Profiles should be placed into the following folders:

  • MAC: MacintoshHD/Users/[yourusername]/Library/ApplicationSupport/Adobe/C ameraRaw/CameraProfiles/
  • Windows: X:¥Users¥ [yourusername]¥AppData¥Roaming¥Adobe¥CameraRaw ¥CameraProfiles¥

 

Some users who are using current versions say that the paths above do not work. In this case, Adobe recommends you use these paths:

  • MAC: Macintosh HD/Applications/Adobe Photoshop Lightroom X/Right-click Show Package Contents/Resources/Camera Profiles/
  • Windows: X:¥ProgramFiles¥Adobe¥AdobePhotoshopLightroomX¥Resources¥ CameraProfiles¥

After restarting the applications, the camera profiles should be visible.

 

Step 2: Initial processing in "Lightroom" or "Camera Raw" 

Now you can process the image. As an example, I will use Lightroom, but the same procedure can be completed in the 'Camera Raw' add-on, which launches when opening a RAW file in Photoshop. 

Please note, the procedure in 'step 1' is a one-time procedure, therefore the processing for all IR shots should always be started from 'step 2'.

When you open your RAW file, go to the 'Camera Calibration' section and apply the IR profile of your camera we made in 'step 1'. Next, go to the 'Basic' section and adjust the white balance so that foliage becomes white. We recommend you use the eyedropper tool on the leaves and fine-tune using the 'Temp' and 'Tint' sliders.

IR image after initial processing

IR image after initial processing

 

Now the picture looks much better. Also, if necessary, you can crop the image, adjust exposure, contrast etc. 

 

Step 3: Final Processing 

If the initial processing was completed in 'Camera Raw', then just click the 'Open Image' button and your image will open in Photoshop. If the processing was completed in Lightroom, then just select the 'Edit in Adobe Photoshop' option in the popup menu. 

When you are in Photoshop, you need to mix the colour channels (red should be replaced by blue and vice versa). Go to "Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer." Here, choose 'Red' for the 'Output Channel' and in the 'Source Channel' section set 0% for 'Red' and 100% for 'Blue'. Then do the same for blue; choose 'Blue' for 'Output Channel' and in the 'Source Channel' section set 100% for 'Red' and 0% for 'Blue'.

 

IR image after colour mixing

IR image after colour mixing

 

Now your image is getting much closer to how we want it to look and everything from here will depend on personal preference. For example, you can go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and slightly adjust the red and blue channels if you so wish. 

 

IR image after adjusting levels

IR image after adjusting levels

 

Once happy, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and adjusting the tint, saturation and brightness of blue tones (sometimes you'll also have to adjust cyan) and decide what to do with the red tones. Usually, people prefer to remove the red, making the foliage completely white. However, sometimes yellow works well, it all depends on the image and your personal preference. 

 

 IR image after deep processing (coloured version)

 IR image after deep processing (coloured version)

 

All you need to do now is save the file in the desired format. 

 

Summary 

IR photography is a genre which really should get more attention. Even though it is quite a difficult technique that requires a lot of time and serious investment, it allows photographers to be more creative and also forces them to think completely differently. It's not everyone's cup of tea but for those who are interested in this technique, we hope this article helps them take their first steps into this genre of photography. 

 If you missed part one to this series, you can find it here: Understanding Infrared Photography & IR Filters Part 1. You should also take a look at FilterZone for more information on Kenko's range of filters. 

 

IR photography

 

IR photography
 

IR photography

 

IR photography

 

IR photography

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