Digital color?

Can you really fake color infrared digitally? Do you really have a choice any more?

Kodak Professional High Speed Infrared (HIE) film was a high-speed color slide film with moderately high contrast and was sensitive to light and radiant energy to 900 nanometers (nm) in wavelength. But it's gone now.

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HIE was useful for haze penetration and special effects in commercial, architectural, fine art, and landscape photography and was a wonderful film--so naturally it was discontinued at the end of 2007. It didn’t take long for retail stock to run out.

So, have color infrared fans been left high and dry? Not completely. Read on.

The real deal: Kodak HIE film was useful for scientific, medical, aerial photography, or just for fun. This nature shot was made with HIE and looks like a fall image but the leaf was green. Image was shot through a Red (25A) filter using a Nikon film camera. Exposure unrecorded. ©1982 Joe Farace

Emulating an HIE effect in the digital darkroom, like all faux IR effects, is highly subject-dependent and while you can come close with some subject matter, others won’t work as well. My favorite tool for HIE emulation is Nik Color Efex Pro, an Adobe Photoshop-compatible plug-in that’s available in three filter collections including Standard, Select and the Complete Editions. No matter which Nik Color Efex Pro filter you choose, each of them adapts its effect based on the detail, structures, colors, and contrast range of a particular image.

The Nik of time! Nik Color Efex Pro filters also adapt to any previous filter adjustment or any other change made to the image to provide natural color or light enhancements. This feature is important since applying filters in a different order will provide you with more control as well as more options for great, natural photographic enhancements.

Welcome to reality: This unmanipulated reference image was captured at Arches National Park with a Pentax K100D; exposure, 1/500 sec at f/8, ISO 400. ©2006 Joe Farace
Welcome to Mars: Nik’s Infrared Filter, part of the Complete Edition, emulates both Color and Black and White Infrared. You can use this filter to simulate different methods of capturing the infrared portion of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum and the effects produced by films that can capture those wavelengths. I like it, because it comes closest to creating the kind of effect that HIE might have created under these circumstances. ©2007 Joe Farace
Welcome to Haight-Ashbury: Younger readers may not be familiar with the term “Pop Art” but Nik’s software designers obviously are. The Pop Art is included in both Select and Complete Editions and is part of the Detail Stylizer filter. It creates abstract color patterns and detail in an image, transforming the details into colorful patterns based on the structure of the original subject. It’s wacky, colorful, and very Jerry Garcia. ©2007 Joe Farace

Joe Farace, co-founder of the League of Infrared Photographers, 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


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