Digital Infrared in Black & White

A reader recently sent e-mail that said: I  had my Canon 30D converted to infrared and have been experimenting with it.  It is very cool and loads of fun but every photo seems to come out with a magenta-ish tone.  At first, it was blue-ish, which I prefer but no matter what I do, including making a Custom White Balance setting, it seems to be magenta.  I can play with it in Lightroom and with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0, or in Photoshop’s RAW but I am wondering if there is some setting I am missing to have them come out more blue-ish or even more black and white-ish in the camera.  I have researched this pretty well on the web, and have found some interesting articles but nothing on point with this issue. Here are two possible answers.

The first answer is simple: If you want to do it in camera just shoot in Monochrome mode. You can find all the details and my philosophy on this approach in a post entitled “White Balance in Infrared Photography” on Photofocus. If you want to do it in the digital darkroom, here’s another way.

Capturing images using RAW format give you the best shot at maximizing imaging quality but Adobe Photoshop does not recognize the custom white balance provided with modified cameras, so you’re gonna need to do some tweaking in Camera RAW.  The suggestions here apply strictly to using an early version of Adobe Camera RAW. Later  versions may be  different but the screenshots should give you an idea of where and how to move each slider to achieve the final result.

Step 1: Open the image file in Camera RAW via Adobe Bridge (File > Open in Camera RAW) and rotate if necessary by clicking the Rotate buttons in the upper left-hand toolbar on the dialog box.


Step 2: To remove all color, move the Saturation slider left to Minus 100.







Step 3: Move the Shadows slider right toward to punch up depth. As Emeril says, “Season to taste.”




Step 4: Move the Exposure slider to brighten the image and you’re almost you’re done. For this image a setting of “zero” produced the best results but as you will discover when exploring the wide, wild world of digital IR photography, there are more “rules of thumb” than those that are set in concrete.







Step 5: The IR Guy recommends that you set Color Depth to 16-bits and that’s a good idea if you want to make the best of an image file from a modest three-megapixel camera like Canon’s EOS D30 (that I made these shots with) but I don’t always do it.



Joe is the author of the now out-of-print “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography.” 

Author: Joe Farace

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