Owner/Photographer Kate Silvia Photography, LLC

Jump into infrared… without the commitment

In Black & White, Infrared Photography by Kate Silvia

Are you intrigued by infrared photography? Those etherial images where green trees turn white as if draped in snow, and blue skies become black as night? Well, I was… enough to convert a small point and shoot camera to try it out.

While this won’t be a post on how to convert or how to process…that’s a whole class or two…I do need to tell you a couple things before I move on. There’s a couple ways to get into infrared pictures. Every digital camera has an infrared blocking filter in it to record correct color images. You can remove this blocking filter which allows you to put IR Filters of varying degrees on the front of your lenses for different effects. However, these filters are extremely dark and often lead to exposure times in the realm of minutes rather than seconds.

A more popular option these days is to have a camera converted to infrared so that it only records IR light and some combinations of infrared and color. These cameras can be used like any other camera with regard to exposure times and you can get fast shutter speeds with great depth of field. However, once this is done, you can no longer use that camera body for regular color images. This is why I chose to convert a point and shoot camera. I was unsure if I wanted to devote one of my DSLRs to infrared and definitely unsure as to whether or not I wanted to carry both my color camera and an infrared DSLR in my camera bag. Heavy! But the drawback of a point and shoot is… well…it’s a point and shoot and I can’t do some of the things that I’d like to do with my DSLR, like shoot with very small apertures for increased depth of field.

Well, thanks to the folks at Singh-Ray, I can have my cake and eat it too! I can do infrared with my DSLR without having to convert the camera AND without the exposure times in minutes. I ordered their new 690nm I-Ray Filter that, to me, mimics the effect of a 590nm conversion on a camera. My point and shoot has a 590nm conversion from LifePixel and I have really enjoyed it. But with the limitations of the point and shoot and not wanting to lug around a converted DSLR, I chose the 690 I-Ray Filter to use on my regular camera. It’s just like any other filter that fits onto the front element of my lens. The exposure times are still longer than an unfiltered exposure, anywhere from 3 seconds to 20 seconds for most of my test shots, but I find that much more manageable than exposure times of several minutes. I can also use those slightly longer exposure times to my advantage for creative blurs in the field.

Not only does the 690nm give you some options for creative blur, it also allows some of the visible color spectrum to be recorded on the sensor. So, after a bit of fancy processing, you can have fun with the combinations of color and infrared in your images. These next two images are examples of this technique. I find I use NIK’s Viveza and Color Efex Pro quite a bit with my infrared images as the software speeds up the creative process. And note that your images may suffer from light leaks if you use these on a DSLR so cover your eyepiece and use a tripod to avoid shake.

Owner/Photographer Kate Silvia Photography, LLCI-Ray 690 filter used on a reflection at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston SC.

Owner/Photographer Kate Silvia Photography, LLCI-Ray 690 used for a scene at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston SC.

Here is a “traditional” look for infrared. This is simply a photo of fern leaves in a conservatory. If taken in color and turned to black and white, the leaves would turn darker, not lighter. With infrared, you can use this to your advantage to create dynamic, high contrast images that entice the viewer. I felt the traditional black and white worked well with this scene.

Owner/Photographer Kate Silvia Photography, LLCSo if you feel like giving infrared a try and don’t want to convert your camera, the I-RAY filters are a great option. Personally, I love being able to switch to infrared on a dime just by adding a filter. This one is my favorite so far, but I’m really looking forward to many more infrared creations.

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