How to Shoot Great Infrared Photography!

Joe Farace Infrared Photography

Guest Post by Joe Farace

One of my readers asked: “I know landscape is a prime subject for infrared photography but are other subjects, such as portraits, cityscapes, night city streets, and macro worth considering? The simplest reason for shooting digital infrared is that this technique has the power to transform mundane visual experiences into something unforgettable. Everyday scenes you might walk right by and never think of photographing, take on a dreamy look when seen in infrared. If you’re considering jumping into IR photography here’s a couple of suggestions.

Joe Farace Infrared Photography

First, used SLR bodies are often available at a substantial discount and I think purchasing one and converting it to infrared capture is a great idea. Another idea is after you’ve updated to a newer, more megapixels model have one of your older cameras converted. The most important think to remember is that after your camera has been converted; you will only be able to shoot monochrome infrared images with it.

Second, and to answer the question, everything makes a great subject for digital infrared photography! Nevertheless, digital IR photography is not for everyone. I have to assume that dark skies, snow-white foliage and increased contrast appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities and what the heck, it’s fun. Here are just a few of the possibilities:

Landscapes:

This is the classical application for either film or digital infrared capture because tree leaves appear to be almost white. This is a common effect produced by deciduous trees and grass because they reflect the sun’s infrared energy instead of absorbing it. Along with the black sky, the effect is dramatic but I shoot IR in the winter when there are no leaves and the grass is dead or snow covered.

Cars:

Regular readers know I’m nutty about cars and I used my IR-converted SLR to make the above shot that was later digitally colored in Photoshop. Infrared images don’t have to be strictly black and white and that’s why I also like to apply digital toning effects to IR image files.

Architecture:

Professional architectural photographers have long used infrared film to make images of buildings. That’s partly because IR photography cuts through any haze, adds contrast, and produces pure black skies—it’s even nicer when you’ve got some clouds—to make photographs of buildings look even more dramatic.

Portraits:

In my book on infrared photography, I show a few portraits using digital IR-converted cameras but not everybody agrees with this idea. Some think it adds a creepy “Twilight” (vampires ya know?) feel to the images because the subject’s eyes will look a bit odd but if you’re careful, aren’t too close, and have the subject looking off to the side, it shouldn’t bother you. If it’s doesn’t, then it’s time to move onto other subjects. And that’s what infrared digital imaging is all about, having fun with photography no matter what subject you decide to photograph.

Visit Joe’s Blog “Saving the world, One Pixel at a Time” (www.joefaraceblogs.com ) for daily tips on digital photography.

Wordless Wednesday #027: Boulder Tulips

Wordless Wednesday #027: Boulder Tulips

Wordless Wednesday #027: Boulder Tulips

I’m coming out of silence for Wordless Wednesdays…primarily because so many people are asking me questions via email, Twitter, and FB to share details about the composition, post production, and other details.  Instead of just spitting out metadata and other information, I’ve got questions and answers from now on:

#1 – What rule of composition did I use and why?

I chose the Rule of Thirds for this shot, and specifically chose the lower left third to be the grabber.  I didn’t want this to be an overpowering shot, for the eye to just enjoy the plethora of tulips…but the little tiny yellow and red amongst the larger red ones struck me for some reason, so I framed it to the lower left – thus giving more space for the eye to expand out from there to the rest of the scene.

#2 – Are any rules of composition broken?

Here, I don’t think so – in general, the Rule of Thirds applies, and the Golden K also applies if you look at it for more than a second or two…see the K lines appear in the red tulips?  Kinda neat, eh?

#3 – What camera/lens combo did I use?

For this shot, I was on my trusty Canon 40D, and the lens mount was none other than the Canon kit 18-55mm (nonIS)!  I went with the 18-55 mm lens because this is a very good lens for approximating the equivalent of what the human eye sees, and for this photo shoot, I wanted that effect.

#4 – What lighting did I use?

Here, there were no lights…it was au naturale:  S=1/60th, f7.1, focal length = 50mm, and an ISO of 1250!  (Yep, ISO 1250 – I was hand holding and wanted to keep it bright!  The scene was actually much darker, because the sun was going down, and I really wanted the colors to pop!  Depth of field was also important to me, because all the flowers needed to stay relatively sharp. Since I was shooting light and on the fly (no tripod or monopod), my only option for getting the brightness in the scene that I wanted was to push the ISO settings up to maintain correct exposure.  

#5 – How did I process it?

I processed this in Lightroom 4, using just a few tweaks on the right panel:  I had under-exposed a little (especially given the fading lighting conditions), so upped that by .76.  I also set Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation to 50, +10, and +10 accordingly.  These settings helped bring out more of the color and vibrance that I was seeing but was not in the default raw file.  My sharpening and noise levels were also set to  +73 and +50…the sharpening was up that high because,w ell, we always have to sharpen at least a little, and a went a little higher to help define that depth of field.  Lastly, the noise levels were pushed up to help counter the impact of the ISO when I was shooting.

Hopefully this will help those of you who are interested in learning what I see with my eye and why I capture certain images.  If you have more questions, or thoughts on improvement, feel free to share those in the comments!