As a professional photographer for over 10 years now, I’m always looking for new ways to differentiate my photography by incorporating unique styles. One thing I’ve done to help stand out amongst the competition is by adding infrared photography to my services. It’s a unique, special, and refreshing twist to the traditional black and white photograph.
What is Infrared Photography?
Infrared photography is the art of capturing infrared light. It opens up a new world of an otherwise invisible light spectrum which allows you to enhance your images by dramatically changing the scene. All cameras capture infrared light, but it is removed by an infrared blocking filter. This filter helps ensure images are an acurate representation of the scene. By removing the blocking filter and replacing it with an infrared “passing” filter, you can convert almost any DSLR to shoot beautiful infrared images. Depending on the company you use to convert your DSLR, there are a variety of filter options available which gives a photographer the ability to choose which type of infrared photography they’d like to focus on.
What You Need
To convert a camera to infrared, you’ll need to have a dedicated DSLR (or mirrorless) camera and lens. Once you make this conversion, there’s no going back so make sure you’re prepared for the investment! There's no wrong choice when selecting a camera, as almost any camera can be converted to infrared. As long as you can manually select white balance in-camera then it should work! In addition to the camera, you’ll need a dedicated lens to use on the infrared-converted body. Your lens will need to be calibrated for use with infrared cameras, otherwise there is a good chance they will not focus properly on the body.
There are a few companies that will convert your camera, but the only one I trust is Life Pixel. They do a fantastic job, are reasonably priced, and have a variety of unique filters to choose from.
From forensics to military, and portraiture to landscapes, infrared photography is used in a variety of applications. I personally use infrared within my wedding photography to help accentuate the natural foliage in a scene. Typically I won’t shoot a client up close with infrared as sometimes this can create “ghostly” effects or unflattering paleness with human subjects. Instead, I’ll position the bride and groom as a foreground element so they become the complement, and not the focus, of the infrared image.
When taking infrared shots, the same rules of photography apply. Look at your light meter to get the correct exposure, watch your highlights/shadows, and compose the image with a unique perspective. The best advice I can give is to play around and take as many photos as you can until you find a style that you like. One thing I will suggest while shooting infrared is to try and avoid heavily backlit scenes. Foliage will typically turn white with infrared light, so when shooting against blown-out backdrops, details can easily get lost. Surprisingly enough, you’ll find a lot more flexibility shooting at high noon while using infrared than you will with traditional color images--so don’t be afraid to shoot in what most would consider “bad” lighting conditions!
Once you get your infrared images to the computer, a little editing is required to make them look their best. Straight out of camera the images can look slightly flat, so it will be beneficial to bring some blacks back into the picture. The easiest and quickest way to bring some depth back into your images is to drag the dehaze slider to the right which will add boldness and contrast to the blacks. If you don’t have this feature, or want to be more picky with your adjustments, you can also adjust the blacks, contrast, and shadow sliders in Lightroom. In addition, I recommend boosting the clarity of your image.
For anyone shooting with an enhanced color infrared camera, there are a lot more advanced features available for those looking to swap color channels and get some unique color hues in the image. These dramatic color changes can be obtained by swapping the red and blue channels of an image in Photoshop. For those interested in learning more about this complicated editing process, I'd recommend searching for tutorials online as there are many from which to choose.
To see more examples of my infrared photography and to (hopefully!) get some inspiration for your own, check out my website at www.SeanLara.com. See you there!
Have you incorporated infrared photography into your business? How do you differentiate your business from the competition? Let us know in the comments!