Members Login

Search

Change Language

English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Guide to digital infrared (IR) photography  

 

Infrared modifications

 

IR River

Image by Jay Town - Herald Photojournalist

 

Introduction

 

Conventional (visible light) photography is the formation of images with light at wavelengths from 380nm to 750nm.

 

Infrared (IR), or more correctly known as near infrared (NIR), photography is the formation of images with humanly-invisible light at wavelengths from 750nm and above. Most IR photography involves wavelengths up to 1200nm. IR photography is done with a very dark (opaque-looking) IR-passing filter which could be made of glass or plastic.

 

Generally, there are 2 broad methods to produce IR images with digital cameras. First, the attachment of an IR-pass filter over the lens. Second, the attachment of an IR-pass filter replacing the imager (CCD/CMOS sensor) pass filter.

 

Sample images

 

Full Spectrum modifications:       Ultraviolet Modifications

 

Quick link to order form               Quick link to pricing


 

Infrared filter over lens

 

Common IR-pass filters include Hoya R72, Cokin P007, Wratten 87, Wratten 87C. Darker, more opaque-looking filters transmit IR-light in the higher wavelengths and produce IR-images that resemble high-contrast black-and-white images. 

 

Attachment of IR-pass filter over the lens is a cheap, but is a slow and troublesome method of doing IR photography. With a DSLR camera, composition and focus must be done before attaching the IR filter since the filter is very dark (causing a viewfinder black-out). Exposure times are a time-consuming guess work, and can be very long (maybe over 20 seconds) even on a bright sunny day, and made worse by in-camera long-exposure noise-reduction processing. In addition, many camera-lens-imager optical systems were not designed for IR transmission, resulting in hot spots (optical flare in the center) on IR images.

  


 
Infrared filter over imager
 
Attachment of IR-pass filter over the imager (by removing the cameras visible light filter) requires skillful camera dismantling and precise focus calibration. These procedures can only be performed by a qualified camera technician. Very often, focus calibration requires the use of proprietary service software available only at authorised service centers.
 
With an IR filter over the imager, IR photography is
faster and easier to do. Exposures are short (not requiring a tripod). Since the IR filter is attached over the imager, there is no viewfinder black-out with DSLR cameras, hence the feel of a normal (unmodified) camera. The occurrence of hot spots is unlikely, making many more lenses IR-compatible with DSLR cameras.
  

 
Starting Infrared photography with a digital camera on the cheap
 
 
1. Test your digital camera for IR capability. Aim your TV (or any infrared) remote controller at your digital camera lens. Depress any button on the remote controller, look at the LCD preview, or capture an image, while the remote controller button is held down. Try different exposure times as the digital camera may be quite insensitive to IR. If you can see your remote controllers LED lit (usually light pink in colour) in the LCD preview or captured images, then your digital camera is capable of shooting IR images.
 
 
2. Buy a Hoya R72 filter (or similar) that fits your digital camera lens or filter adapter.
 
 
3. On a sunny day, go to a park or anywhere that has flora and fauna, or trees with your digital camera and a stable tripod. Attach your camera to a tripod, adjust the aperture and shutter speed as desired, and shoot IR images. Try shooting images with Auto White Balance (AWB) first. Some digital cameras do not perform well with AWB.
 

4. If AWB does not work well, do a custom white balance (CWB) measurement on your digital camera with the R72 filter attached to the lens. Aim the lens (fill the viewfinder) on a bright patch of grass/leaves or at the blue sky while making the measurement. Results are likely to differ.
 
 
5. After doing the CWB measurement, remember to set your digital camera to the measured CWB before shooting IR images.
 
 
6. Depending on the characteristics of your digital cameras CCD/CMOS imager optical system, IR images may require long exposures of several seconds even on a sunny day.
 
 

 

Starting Infrared photography with a dedicated digital camera

 
1. Obtain a digital camera to be modified into a dedicated IR camera. Most people use their old or backup digital cameras that are still in good working condition, Digital SLR or Compact camera.
 
 
2. Print and complete this form send it with your digital camera. A qualified camera technicians with specialised tools and proprietary diagnostic/calibration will dismantle the camera in a specialised clean booth, the ban pass filter is removed and replaced with the dedicated IR filter. The auto exposure meter is altered to correctly respond to the same wavelength. Once the camera is assembled the focus is calibrated to best suite the main lens used with the camera.
 
 
3. When you receive your IR-modified and calibrated digital camera, you may shoot IR images almost as easily as normal conventional photography. Try Auto White Balance (AWB) first, or for better control over the results, use custom white balance (CWB) by measuring on a patch of grass/leaves or at the blue sky.
 

 

Advantages of a dedicated (IR-modified) digital camera

  

Increased transmission of infrared light on to the imager results in faster exposures and lowered ISO.

 

Fast exposure allows handheld photography and freezing of moving subjects. Fast exposures are also less susceptible to electronic noise.

 

Lowered ISO images are less vulnerable to electronic noise, hence resulting in smoother and higher definition images.

 

With a DSLR camera, composition and focus is possible through the viewfinder. There is no black-out due to an IR filter attached over the lens.

 

With only an IR-pass filter fitted, visible light is eliminated in the captured images; hence optical interference from visible light is absent. This can result in sharper (properly focused IR light) and stronger contrast images.

 

IR-modified cameras can be, and should be, focus calibrated for the IR spectrum since IR does not focus on the same focal point as visible light. Even in the visible light spectrum, red and blue do not focus on the same focal point.

 

If the digital camera was modified properly with focus calibrated for IR, there is no need to manually compensate the focus. (Only the lenses within the calibrated range)

 


 

Colours & white balance

 

Using Auto White Balance (AWB), some digital cameras may produce IR images with a strong yellowish/reddish/brownish colour cast known as false colour. This is due to the characteristics of the imager and processing algorithms. Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop (or similar) is required to remove/reduce this false colour effect. False colour can be removed/reduced by shooting images with Custom White Balance.

 

Using Custom White Balance (CWB) measured on sun-illuminated grass/leaves (a ubiquitous available midtone), IR images tend to appear more monochromatic.

 

When using the Colour mode, random spots of colour (colour artifacts) may occur in images. If the camera has Black-and-White mode, using this mode will eliminate colour artifacts, and may strengthen the monochromatic appearance in IR images.

 

Generally, there are 4 possible combinations of photographic modes to shoot infrared images.

 

Colour mode with AWB
Colour mode with CWB
B&W mode with AWB  (unavailable on some cameras)
B&W mode with CWB (unavailable on some cameras)

 

More false colours can happen with other white balance settings such as Tungsten or Fluorescent.


 

Post-processing of Infrared images

 

1. Open your IR images in Adobe Photoshop. Click Image > Adjustments > Auto Contrast if your images are underexposed due to the filter.

 

2. Click Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer. Select Red Channel in Channel Mixer, slide your Red percentage to 0% and Blue to 100%. Now select Blue Channel in Channel Mixer, slide your Blue percentage to 0% and Red to 100%. The basic process is done.

 

3. You can still further tweak the colours to your desired effect.

 

4. To enhance whites/highlights:
Click Image > Adjustments > Selective Colour. Select Neutrals. Slide the Black to a negative percentage to enhance whites/highlights. Experiment with the Method - Relative or Absolute.

 

5. To obtain a cyan-tint:
Click Image > Adjustments > Selective Colour. Select Black. Slide the Yellow to a positive percentage.

 

6. To obtain a yellow-tint:
Click Image > Adjustments > Selective Colour. Select Black. Slide the Cyan to a positive percentage.

 

 


 

The key to awesome Infrared images 

 
IR photography opens an alternative realm to photography. Interesting, and different colours, are an expected and common effect with IR photography. Like special effects optical filters, IR photography can be considered a novelty. To obtain good IR images, recall the basics of photography. Find an interesting subject and compose your images well.
 
 

Camera that maintain blue in a custom white balance mode. (Seen in image below)
 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

Pricing effective 31st May 2015

 

Wavelength sensitivity depends on the camera, typically:

       Camera with out any modification 400nm to 750nm 

       Camera with full spectrum modification 280nm to 1100nm

       Camera with IR only modification 700nm and above.

 

Compacts $295.00
Mirrorless unit $395.00
Consumer SLR $495.00
Full frame SLR $595.00

 

Most cameras can be converted. The price includes a filter of your choice, fitting, calibration and focal adjustment to a lens and focal specification you choose.

 

Our qualified technicians will dismantle your camera in a clean booth and replace the band pass filter to the spectral response of choice the Auto focus and Auto exposure system is adjusted to match this response. Your camera is cleaned reassembled and tested.

 

A focal calibration will be carried out on your lens to allow your camera to auto focus to a certain point. To focus past that point you will have to manually focus.

 

The camera will have the metering adjusted accordingly.

 

To have your camera modify and enjoy the new would of near IR; print and complete the form below send a copy with your digital camera to Camera Clinic

 

Please call +613 9419 5247 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to check possible conversions.

 

Print and complete this form send it with your digital camera

 


Available filters and Infrared film stock comparisons

 

Most common filter used in SLR conversions is the Wratten 87 this gives best performance for digital cameras.

 

Filter choise

 

Full Spectrum (Clear Filter) options

 

Full Spectrum (Clear Filter) options for those interested in the UV, Visible and IR spectrums. The prices for these filter options, including installation service, are the same as the pricing table above. We can also special order most filter variation that you may need. Some of our customers have ordered special filters covering narrow or wide areas of the spectrum for specialty photography, including Astrophotography, Solar photography, Fireworks photography and others. Also, we are constantly testing conversions on models that are not listed below. If you are interested in having a camera model converted that is not listed above please contact us as we may be able to accommodate your needs.

 

Light spectral range, most full spectrum converted D-SLR cameras are sensitive from 250nm to 1100nm 

 

 

Ultraviolet Spectrum Modifications

 

Now available UV sensitive camera modifications using the Baader UV filter or the Schott UG11filter available for most DSLR cameras or compacts. pricing same as IR.

 

   

    UV camera Nikon D70, 30th f5.6              Normal visible light camera
       Illumination UV-B fluorescent
 
 
 
  

 

                                

 

  

                                      Wavelength comparison table