Creating Digital IR Images

Several weeks ago I talked about my latest toy. Well yesterday I came home to a box behind my door with the upgraded camera so I thought I would post some background in Infrared photography.

I just love getting comments and questions on my posts because so often they lead to new posts.  Trust me when I tell you that writing original material every day is not an easy thing.  Today it was made easier by frequent blog commenter, Roger Tregellies.  Roger had commented on my color IR images and was curious at what I used to take those images.  I answered his question but thought I would also share it with you.

First of all, the color IR images started life as standard digital IR.  They were taken with a Nikon D70 that was converted for IR by LifePixel.  Lifepixel will sell you the conversion filter that basically requires you to remove the IR blocking filter (sometimes referred to as a hot mirror) that is factory installed in front of the image sensor and replace it with a special filter that allows more IR and less visible wavelengths to hit the sensor.  If you are a daring soul, you can convert your own camera by buying the filter and then following the directions provided by LifePixel.  For those that are a little nervous about tearing into your camera, you can have LifePixel do the installation for a fee.

It’s not necessary to go through a conversion to capture IR with your digital camera.  Although there is a blocking filter installed, it doesn’t completely block all of the IR.  To take advantage of this, you can use infrared filters in front of your lens to block the visible light and only allow the IR wavelengths to pass through to the filter.  There are drawbacks to this method.  First of all, because there is a blocking filter in the camera, the exposures will be longer than normal and require the use of a tripod.  Also, since the IR filter blocks visible light, you won’t be able to see through the lens to focus or compose your image so you will have to do all of this first and then screw the filter on the camera and then take the image.

Great Falls with D200 and #89 filter

Nikon D200 using #89 IR Filter

After using both methods, I can tell you that you will discover much more photographic freedom using a converted camera.  Since the filter rests in front of the sensor but behind the mirror, you are free to compose and focus at will.  Also, because there is no longer an IR blocking filter, the camera is much more sensitive to IR and allows for “normal” exposures without the use of a tripod.

Image created using a converted nikon D70 camera

Image taken with converted Nikon D70

As with all IR photography, you will require a good infrared light source  for your image exposures.  There is no better source around than the sun. When shooting, the best time of day is when you can work with full sun light.  Unlike regular photography, you want to stay away from the first and last hours of the day as well as heavy shadows or cloudy days.

D70 image with color conversion in Photoshop

D70 IR image with color conversion in Photoshop

As for the cost of shooting IR, it will probably run you anywhere from $100 to  $500 depending on the method you choose and the camera you use.  If you want to try out the filter on your regular digital camera you will probable end up spending between $100 – $150 on a good IR filter like a #87.  If you want to get your camera converted, you can purchase the filter from LifePixel for $150 – $200 dollars depending on which filter you wish to use (they offer 3 different filters for different effects).  If you would like them to convert your camera, you will spend between $300 – $600.  The price is dependent upon what type of camera you want converted as well as the type of filter you want installed.  And don’t think that you have to use a dSLR for IR.  LifePixel will take many older point-n-shoot cameras like a Nikon CoolPix 950 or a Canon G3 and convert them for IR use as well (see the site for a list of cameras and costs).

No matter which method you choose, I think you will find that shooting with the IR spectrum opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your photography.

Above reposted from PhotoWalkPro.

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