Correct Exposure When Shooting Infrared

As I explain in the About section, “I’m not asking you to change anything you’re already doing. I’m just providing information you can use—or not. This is not a ‘my way or the highway’ blog.”

For example, here’s how I approach determining exposure for infrared photography: When shooting infrared, the nearly white reproduction of vegetation’s green chlorophyll, produces black-and-white IR photographs that are rendered as if they were glowing, moonlit, or immersed in extraterrestrial light.

Infrared color photographs, on the other hand, when made using IR color film have a fairy-tale look rendering infrared-reflecting plants in orange to purple-red tones. As in black and white IR photography, the results are difficult to predict, making them ideal for experimentation and the kind of surprises that photographers who are in their first phase of development always experience. In short, it’s an easy way to kick-start your creativity.

Two subjects that appear equally bright in normal (visible) light might reflect infrared radiation at different rates and have different IR brightness. That’s because exposure meters that are built into cameras (and even hand held ones, for that matter) are not sensitive to infrared light. winter.tree.IRThis means that it can be ’s difficult to calculate exact exposures but that doesn’t mean you can’t try, especially with your camera’s LCD providing instant feedback.  That’s why it’s  a good idea to bracket a series of three to five different exposures.

Most cameras these days have an auto-bracketing  feature or you can use the Exposure Compensation feature that lets you adjust exposures on one-half or one-third stops in  various automatic exposure modes. If all fails and even taking a look at the histogram, try manual mode. What I do: Typically I look through the lens and see what the suggested exposure is in Program mode, then transfer the shutter speed and aperture to the camera after it’s set in M. Now you’re free to change shutter speed or aperture to bracket exposures.

IR.bookMy book, “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,” is out-of-print but used 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 copies for $5.49 and used copies at a giveaway—less than three bucks— price.

Author: Joe Farace

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