How to Start with Infrared Photography

Infrared photography always catches the attention of the viewers, it’s vivid colors stands out and most people always wonders how a photographer achieves it.

Well, if you are reading this article then you won’t have to guess how IR photos are created. Here are some tips on how to get started with infrared photography.

We all know that photography is the art of capturing light, and Infrared photography deals with the art of capturing invisible light — an art that is challenging but if done correctly it comes with a lot of benefits. Infrared photographs can be really creatively rewarding and eye catching.

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Things you need:

Any DSLR and compact mirror less cameras whose lenses can be fitted with filters is what you first need to have for infrared photography. Second, you would need an IR-filter, since filters comes in different ranges where it measures the amount of wavelengths it allows, you can start with the Hoya R72 IR filter which so far is the only IR filter I ever used. Feel free to choose other filters if you desire.

infrared photography

Another important equipment is the tripod. Taking Infrared photographs requires a steady camera; therefore a stabilized platform is a must. IR photography requires a slow shutter speed and very long exposure to capture all invisible light.

While you can shoot infrared photography an all types of lens, there are a few which are perfect for shooting IR images. Always ask your supplier if the lens you are buying is IR-friendly or not.

What are ideal subjects for IR photography?

Most importantly, you must understand the theory of capturing invisible light, which are the ones unseen to the human eye. The world looks completely dissimilar in Infrared, and here are some things to consider.

A blue sky will seem very dark, while vegetation will show a discrete white color. This in turn, creates an amazing contrast in the photograph which makes the image stand out. Because of the long exposure time, portraits and other non-stationary backdrops can be difficult to capture, this is why most Infrared photographs are in landscape modes.

How to photograph in IR?

After you attach the IR filter to your lens you will find out that you will see nothing in your viewfinder. This is because the filter is intended to block visible light. This result in two difficulties — first, you won’t be able to see what’s in and what’s not in the frame, second, you can’t see the subject in focus. The ideal way in solving these concerns is to set up your tripod and look for a subject and frame a good composition before attaching the IR filter to your lens.

Remember that the focus distance is different for IR light as compared to visible light, so you need to refocus after attaching the IR filter. This presents another problem since you will see nothing on your viewfinder. The best solution is to set your camera on auto focus with the IR filter, or adjust the aperture down enough until it focuses the entire distance.

When using manual exposure, from my own experience most IR images I took had an exposure time of 10 seconds to 30 seconds. Set your ISO to its lowest setting to keep the noise level down as possible since shooting with long exposures increases the noise level and motion blur.

infrared photography


Infrared photography always depends on the IR filter you used and how your camera captures the IR light. If you used the Hoya R72 filter that I use, you will get an IR image with heavy magenta/red tinted photographs. This is what photographers’ calls as “false colors”, and it can be resolved with the help of Photoshop.

Open your infrared image in your Photoshop. Find and use the feature ‘Channel Mixer’ after you created a new adjustment layer. This will allow you to control the channels BLUE, GREEN and RED. What you need to do next is to switch the Blue and the Red channel.

Select Blue and adjust the Blue setting to 0% and alter the Red setting to 100%

Select Red and adjust the Red setting to 0% and alter the Blue setting to 100%

You can also try with altering the Green channel or such, experiment with different combinations for each IR scenery. You now have gotten rid of that deeply tinted magenta/red color from your IR image, but the present appearance might not be much appealing either. Next step is to play with the Levels and Curve settings, if you haven’t used these adjustment tools before; try to click ‘Auto’ and see if you like the result.

There you go a very quick but surefire guide on how to start with IR photography. Remember to try other ways when composing your IR images as well as with the post processing. IR photography always produces stunning results which I’m sure you will enjoy.

About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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