The Wood Effect in Infrared Photography

Photography is all about lighting but where infrared photography is concerned you’re capturing images with invisible light, which is why comparisons to traditional photography are difficult.


If you want to create a dramatic image, few things beat a beautiful sunrise photographed in color. The same scene photographed in infrared may be disappointing unless there’s some  IR reflective subject matter (we’re talking about big deciduous trees here) to add interest. That’s because the “Wood Effect,” which is the bright to white reproduction of the chlorophyll layer of deciduous plants. The effect is named after infrared photography pioneer Robert W. Wood (1868-1955) and not after the material wood, which in fact does not strongly reflect infrared.

Rule of thumb: If the lighting in a scene looks great for standard photographs, then it’s probably not going to work for infrared. But don’t take my word for it—you need to experiment for yourself because you’ll never know for sure what the results will be.


There are no “official” subjects for digital IR photography; Please read my post ‘Best Subjects for Infrared Photography’ for my take on this. Sure, summertime landscapes with leafy trees, lots of grass, and puffy clouds often make a great infrared picture but don’t be confined to basic landscapes. Some artists profiled in my no out-of-print (but available used) book, “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,” like to shoot people in IR.

Any subject is fair game if you want to produce IR images. My  advice is to experiment and discover what works. You may be surprised at the variety of subject matter you can find for infrared photographs.

IR.bookMy book, “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,” is out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon at most affordable prices. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is also not in print and has a chapter on IR photography. It’s available from Amazon right now at a giveaway price.


Author: Joe Farace

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