Photo 101: What’s a Wratten Filter?

warattenHistory lesson: Colored filters are often referred to by their Wratten numbers. The Wratten system was originally developed by the English firm of Wratten and Wainwright in 1909 when they published a book called The Photography Of Coloured Objects. Established in the 1877, the company was primarily makers of photographic plate and chemicals and for a short time in the 1880s and ’90s also produced cameras. In 1912 George Eastman acquired Wratten and Wainwright and the name stuck.

One of the most popular camera filters for shooting infrared is called the Wratten 89B and it’s one the filters in my three-filter IR kit. The actual filter I use is Cokin’s Infrared 89B filter aka A007. Instead of using the filter in a Cokin holder, typically I’ll hold the filter against the lens to avoid daylight coming in the sides and polluting the IR. You can read about what the other two filters are in my infrared filter kit here.

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When shooting infrared with non-converted cameras, I like using the 89B mainly because it’s the least expensive infrared filter (that I’ve found) especially in Cokin’s A-series (67 x 71mm) size that works great with most digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras. Purist will recognize that this filter only permits 50% transmission of IR light at 720nm while others, such as B+W’s filter, passes 90% of IR radiation—its not  light because it’s invisible—from 730-2000nm.

Not a fan of filters? If you prefer to have one of your camera’s converted for IR-only use, there is a special deal for this blog’s readers: If you want to save money when converting your camera to infrared, use the coupon code “farace” at LifePixel.

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My book The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently out of print but you can get an affordable (some are less than a buck) used copy or not-so-affordable new copies of the book from Amazon.com.

Author: Joe Farace

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