Getting Started with Infrared Photography

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment. ” – Ansel Adams

Shooting in infrared transforms mundane subject matter into something more interesting and exotic. It adds drama to landscape photography while letting you to shoot during the middle of the day because the best time of day for infrared photography is the worst time for traditional photography.

Is your camera infrared sensitive? One way to check is to take the TV Remote test: Press a button on the remote, point it at your camera and take a picture or look at it in Live View. If you can see light from the remote you’re almost ready to make infrared images. Caveat: A few readers told me this isn’t infallible but it’s always worked for me.

Once your camera is ready you have two options for capturing IR images. Use an infrared filter on your lens or have your camera converted for IR-only operation:

Depending on their size, infrared filters may be the least expensive solution for capturing IR images. As I write this, a 52mm Hoya R72 Infrared filter costs $38.96 and a Cokin A007 filter is $49.13 making these filters the least expensive way to try IR photography. More powerful filters such as a 52mm Singh-Ray 690 I-Ray are $160. These filters are so dark they require exposures of one or more seconds. You’ll need a tripod and may have to focus with the filter off the lens, then put it back on to make the final exposure.

Converting a camera to infrared costs is going to more than 50 bucks and you won’t be able to use the camera for any other kind of photography. Depending on the specific camera, LifePixel charges $175 and up to convert SLRs, mirrorless and compact cameras for infrared capture. Once converted, you can shoot hand held and all focusing problems are eliminated. Other than kicking up the ISO setting a bit higher than normal there’s no real difference between shooting a converted camera than a standard SLR or mirrorless camera.

If I put two IR photographs next two one another and one was made with a filter and the other with a converted camera, may not be able to tell the difference. The only difference is what method suits your budget and how you prefer to shoot.

IR.bookMy book, “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,” is out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $19.95, as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new and used copies selling for $2.55, a price that can’t be beat for one of my favorite books.

Author: Joe Farace

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