Barry, when did your interest in infrared photography begin?
"I first became interested in the 80’s. I was intrigued by the ethereal look of some images I saw but never actually got around to taking IR pictures on film.
Fast forward now to the ‘naughties’ and the digital age, and I became aware again of the possibility of using the DSLR with either an infrared filter or using a converted camera."
What infrared options did you explore?
"I started playing with the R72 / 720nm infrared screw-on filter. However, due to the density of the filter, using a tripod was a must. Shutter speeds of 1 or 2 minutes where not uncommon even on sunny days.
Then a friend of mine lent me her converted Canon 1D MkII, affectionally known as the ‘Brick’, and I really became hooked on the process. It was not long before I purchased a Canon 20D that had a 720nm conversion."
How do you achieve the unusual colours in your images?
"Although many photographers use infrared converted cameras to produce monochrome images, I really like the false colours that can be created, which is why I chose the 720nm conversion.
Add to that the things you can do in post processing like channel swapping and adding diffused glow, and the possibilities are endless."
Do you have any thoughts on the best cameras and lenses to use?
"Every camera is different, and some can be more successful with an IR conversion than others. I had my Canon 5D MkIII converted just over a year ago and this gives me fantastic infrared images, which are different from the ones I got from my old Canon 20D.
Lenses too are variable. Quite often it’s the cheaper ones that work better. Some of the more expensive lenses can create a ‘hot spot’ in the middle of the image."
For anyone new to infrared photography, can you explain how you process the images?
"Initial set up involves creating an Infrared Profile for Adobe Camera Raw / Adobe Lightroom. There are lots of web sites telling you how to do this but try this link
"During my initial learning stage, I found many articles on the web and YouTube and it was during these investigations I became aware of a Canadian photographer called Alex Morrison who regularly writes for the Digital Photography School.
From my research I have developed a workflow in Photoshop. I found I was repeating the first few steps at the start of each image, so I have now created a Photoshop Action to create the various layers to adjust, but this is optional."
- Open an image in Photoshop
- Copy Layer
- Image - Auto Tone
- New Adjustment Layer – Channel Mixer (this is the basic ‘channel swapping’ technique).
- On the Red Channel set the Red Slider to 0% and the Blue Slider to 100%
- On the Blue Channel set the Blue Slider to 0% and the Red Slider to 100%
- New Adjustment Layer – Hue/Saturation. Change the drop down from Master to either Red or Blue and use the eye dropper to select a colour you wish to change and play with saturation and hue.
- New Adjustment Layer – Curves. Use to add or remove contrast, you can try the individual colour channels too.
- New Adjustment Layer – Black & White. Change Blend Mode to Luminosity. Play with the sliders to change the image to your liking.
"Although my Action adds all the layers, I don’t always adjust each one. I certainly do not always ‘channel swap’ in the Channel Mixer. It depends upon the colour effects I want to achieve in each individual picture."
For anyone thinking of trying some infrared photography, here are Barry's top tips..
- See if someone you know has a converted camera or IR filter you can borrow
- Investigate opportunities and ideas on YouTube and Web sites
- Before you purchase a converted camera or have one converted, try a screw on 720nm
- Investigate filter opportunities plus the new Full Spectrum conversion
- Consider buying a second hand converted camera if you don’t have one for conversion. It can be a cheaper option
- If you are thinking of having a camera converted, I have used Advanced Camera Services based in Thetford. They are extremely helpful and professional
- Hot spots are lens dependent, so try different lenses
- Start by shooting in good lighting conditions, low contrast scenes can be more difficult to process
- Try to develop a consistent workflow
- And finally ‘Be prepared to become obsessed!’
From the variety of images that Barry has shown us I would say try infrared on any subject matter and see what happens!