Give conventional images the infrared look
By Joe Farace
March 27, 2008
Here’s a few tips, tricks and techniques that will let you convert conventional images into faux infrared photographs using various software tools.
A color’s wavelength is measured in nanometers or one billionth of a millimeter with light having wavelengths from 700 and 900 nm is considered to be infrared. This band of infrared light is a thousand times wider than visible light and is totally invisible. You can capture infrared photographs using filters or digital SLRs that have been converted to IR-only use but what about that library of shots you already have? With just a little bit of digital magic, some of them could make great IR shots.
Here’s a few tips, tricks and techniques that will let you convert conventional images into what might be called faux infrared photographs using various software tools but first I want to provide reference images made under normal light and as an IR capture so you can see how realistically these effects are achieved in the digital darkroom.
Normal exposure: This reference image was made in my favorite testing spot—my front yard! It was captured using a Fuji FinePix 3800 in Program mode with an exppsure of 1/100 sec at F/8.2 and ISO 100. ©2003 Joe Farace
Real infrared: The same camera set-up but this time with a Hoya R72 filter attached to the front of the Fuji 3800. The as-captured image file has a dark magenta color but was converted into black and white using Adobe Photoshop (Image > Adjustments > Black & White.) ©2003 Joe Farace
Fake infrared 1: PhotoTools Professional is a Photoshop-compatible plug-in that produces a wide range of effects, corrections, and automation wrapped around a full-featured interface. Both versions reproduce camera filters like neutral density, color correction, polarization, as well as darkroom and alternative processes like solarization, cyanotype and palladium printing. This image was converted into faux IR using their “Convert to B&W IR” filter that gives you three options: Light, Medium, and Heavy. For this example, the Light setting was used. ©2003 Joe Farace
Fake infrared 2: In the strictest technical terms, Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 may be a Photoshop-compatible plug-in but it’s really an imaging environment that extends Adobe Photoshop’s capabilities allowing you to produce incredible looking effects in little time. The product includes 52 filters and over 250 effects that are whisked into a single interface including the Infrared Film filter that was applied to our reference photo to create this image. ©2003 Joe Farace
Fake infrared 3: If you already have Adobe Photoshop, try using the Infrared preset that’s already part of the Black & White filter (Image > Adjustments > Black & White.) ©2003 Joe Farace
Fake infrared 4: While not really a one-click operation, Craig’s InfraRedders with Glow Photoshop Action was applied to the reference image. During the Action you will see several dialog boxes. ©2003 Joe Farace
When looking at my examples the most important point to keep in mind is that many if not most or even all of these techniques and software tools are subject dependent. Some work best with images that posses a certain tonality or contrast range. That’s why I suggest that you use any of these imaging and digital darkroom techniques as a jumping off point for your own photographic explorations.
Joe Farace is the author of “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography” published by Lark Books (ISBN 1579907725.) It’s available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.