Why Shoot Infrared?
Infrared photography is uniquely stunning! This is due to a few reasons, three of which stand out foremost. First, infrared photography utilizes light that is invisible to us, but that our digital cameras can detect. Second, due to the way that IR light refracts within the cells of living plant matter, and then strongly reflects from it, IR photography allows you to capture an unrivaled glowing effect from foliage, leaves, grass, etc. (what is called the Wood Effect), which you can’t achieve through regular photography. Third, because of the way visible and IR light combine on the camera sensor, you can get very unique color/hue possibilities in your images.
How To: The Quick and Dirty
You can shoot IR photography in two basic ways: (1) with a standard camera and an IR filter, or (2) a converted camera and an IR filter. What is the difference? Every standard camera comes with an internal IR-blocker (i.e., “IR cut-off filter”) to make sure the pictures we take look like what we see. Since we only see visible light, the internal IR-blocker is needed to make sure the camera sensor isn’t “contaminated” by invisible IR light. But if you want to really utilize IR light to achieve all of the special effects it can produce, then you can remove that IR-blocker, and that is a converted camera.
Why would you want to do that?
Well, the key reason is that while you can take IR photographs with a standard camera, the IR-blockers in those cameras require you to shoot with long exposure times. If you are looking to do long exposures anyway, this isn’t a problem, but if you want to avoid the blur that accompanies most long exposures, then converting your camera is a good option. Both options have benefits.
Option (1): Leaving your camera unconverted (standard) and doing long exposure IR photography is a good idea in terms of economy – camera conversions cost around $400 – and you can potentially utilize motion blur to your artistic advantage anyway. The following photograph, “Timeless,” was taken with the Hoya R72 and shows how this might be done.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of blur in the clouds and the trees. The cloud and tree blur shows motion, which contrasts very interestingly with the stillness of the barn. This was the effect I desired, and so a long exposure was the best choice. Additionally, if there is no wind blowing nearby objects, you can still get sharp images, as the next example illustrates.
So if you’re just starting out and want to experiment, then all you need to do is get yourself a Hoya R72 and get out your tripod and begin experimenting!
However, if you want to be able to get non-blurred images in windy conditions or without a tripod, you’ll want to convert your camera. If you convert your camera, since the IR-blocker has been removed, drastically less time is required to properly expose images, and the result is imagery without blur. For example, the following images were handheld, using the R72.
I hope to have shown you a range of the remarkable possibilities of the Hoya R72 filter – you have a lot of unique creative opportunities to explore once you have one, so I encourage you to add IR photography to your shooting experience if you haven’t already done so! And if you shoot IR, but don’t have the R72, it has my full recommendation. Honestly, I’ve been impressed with the images I’ve created with it, and that’s a great feeling we all should have.
Learn More About Matthew in his ambassador profile here