How To Process Infrared Images in Photoshop

How To Process Infrared Images in Photoshop

Here’s one of my most popular images, “Summerglow.”  I used the Hoya R72 to make this image with my full spectrum camera.  When shooting, shoot in RAW; this will allow you maximum editing flexibility. 


Let’s walk through a simple procedure for editing.  The first step after inserting your SD card in your computer is to go under “file” and select “import” -> “images from device.”  This will bring up a screen with all the shots on your SD card.  Then you just select the one you want and press “download.”  Images with clear color separation will generally work best. 


Given the way the combination of visible and invisible, infrared light are recorded on the sensor, it’s not going to look like something you’ll want to keep.  Here’s an example of how “Summerglow” looks upon immediately being brought into the raw filter.


The next step is to use the bars on the right to optimize your image before bringing it into Photoshop.  What you want to focus on is getting the maximal color and tone separation; this will provide you with the best file.  “Temperature” is the most important control bar, so make sure you experiment with it to see how variable the effect is. Additionally, I often like to tone down my “highlights,” as this darkens your skies and brings out more clouds.  But it depends on the image.  Again, experiment!  Once you’ve optimized your file, it will look something like this.  Here, I took the all-red cast and made it a combination of red and magenta.


Then hit the button “open object,” and you’ll do the rest of the work in Photoshop proper.   The first thing I normally do on an R72 image is change my reds to blues (if I want a naturalistic sky).  Most people use channel swaps, but I use the “hue/saturation” panel, change the “master” channel to the “red” channel and then shift the “hue” slider to where it looks right.  Once you’ve done this, you’ll have transformed the image to something like this…


Now, if you want white foliage, you’ll select the “magenta” channel and select the “saturation” slider and desaturate by moving it left.  You’ll get something like this…


Now here’s a trick.  Desaturating doesn’t really remove all the magenta, so if you want whiter foliage, select a new hue/saturation panel, go to magenta, and desaturate again.  Now your whites are brighter. While you’re at it, go through all the color channels and see if you can make any improvements.  Mostly they won’t affect your image, because the R72 is predominantly a 2-tone filter (dark reds and infrared), but sometimes you can make additional improvements. 


And one final step.  The contrast isn’t high enough in our color corrected image.  I want a bolder feel to it.  So select the “curves” panel, and move the buttons to just touch either side of the histogram.  You can also add a slight S-curve, as shown, to really make it punchy. 

And there you have it!  The whole process goes quickly with a bit of practice, and if you make photos on really sunny days, you can get some brilliantly bright effects. 


Well that’s it for this tutorial, but I’ll be working through other images in the future to show you some more advanced techniques.  If you have any questions, you can contact me at   And to see more of my work, head over to my Instagram page @matthew_stuart_piper.  Thanks and happy shooting!