The Wood Effect in Infrared Photography

Here in Colorado, spring is seemingly just around the corner and while it’s snowing on the day that I wrote this, the deciduous trees here on Daisy Hill are just starting to burst forth with greenery. That means that infrared season is just around the corner too.

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 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 photographer’s who  are profiled in my book, “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,” (see below) even like to shoot people in IR. The truth is that any subject is fair game if you want to produce IR images. My  advice is to experiment and discover what works for you—the key words. You may be surprised at the variety of subject matter you can find for infrared photographs.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IR.book_.site_-1.jpgUsed copies of my book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently are available from Amazon starting at $22.28 as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new copies at $41.48 with used copies starting around two bucks—a bargain for one of my favorite books.


Author: Joe Farace

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