Taking pictures of invisible light – Infrared Photography


Ever since I saw the first infrared photograph it has always been something I have wanted to try myself. The eerie feeling and weird effects create some of the most dramatic and engaging photographs I have ever seen. I researched the process of obtaining these infrared photos. Once educated, I purchased the proper equipment and began to experiment.

Infrared photography has existed for around one hundred years, beginning with infrared film and now transitioning primarily into digital infrared. It has been used for scientific and medical purposes because of its ability to “see through” certain materials and substances. Infrared has also been used for aerial photographs for its ability to penetrate through haze. In addition infrared photography has been utilized for the creative and strange effects it produces. For landscape photography its effects include, very dark skies, extremely white clouds, bright foliage, and dark water. For portrait photography it creates milky smooth skin, removes many skin blemishes, and gives hair a silky tone.

I discovered that there are several options to taking digital infrared photos. The first option is converting a digital camera to taking only IR photos. Modern digital cameras have an infrared blocking filter covering the image sensor. Infrared photos are possible by removing the filter and instead adding a visible light blocking filter in its place. This process costs several hundred dollars and the camera can no longer take regular color photos. But with this method the picture can still be composed through the viewfinder, auto-focus still works, and auto-exposure still works. The other option for taking digital infrared photos is purchasing an infrared filter to screw on to the end of the lens. The filter blocks all visible light and allows infrared light through. The built in infrared light blocking filter covering the camera’s sensor is not 100 percent efficient allowing some infrared light through. But because of the infrared blocking filter, long exposures are required to allow enough light to reach the sensor. The longer exposure creates extra noise and limits the subject matter to stationary objects, unless blur is the desired effect. With this method the picture must be composed and focused before the filter is screwed onto the end of the lens.

Once digital infrared photos have been captured they generally must be processed. This can be done in Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom or another image processing software. When the picture is first taken it will be very red with maybe a little magenta. The picture can be converted to black and white or adjusted to create infrared false colors.

Being a college student, I choose the cheaper option for taking infrared photos and purchased a R72 Infrared filter and fitted it to my wide-angle lens. Once I received the filter I started experimenting right away. I feel like I have created some rather interesting images. I have found that it is a challenge processing the images since there are so many different adjustments you can do. The weather has also not always cooperated since infrared pictures work the best on bright sunny days with blue skies and puffy clouds.

The following pictures were all taken with a Canon Rebel T1i, a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens, an Opteka 77mm R72 infrared filter, and a Bogen tripod. Most exposures were approximately 30 seconds long.

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My name is Colin Schye. I am a designer and photographer that recently graduated from the School of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin - Stout. I graduated from the Multimedia Design program with a minor in Applied Photography. I am currently working as a Designer at Morsekode in Minneapolis.

As an artist in today’s society, I use my surroundings paired with my eye for detail to create art in many different ways. From drawing to technologically based art, my passions exceed far beyond the scope of normality. Relying solely on one type of medium does not satisfy my craving for originality and creativity. Gaining inspiration from different environments and people and the feelings they evoke is what gives my work a unique feel. My style is constantly changing as I experience different aspects of life and thus my artwork is always adapting to reflect these changes.

My work efficiently combines the usability and functionality of design with the beauty and marvel of art. I strive to create pieces that are clean and simple, yet appealing and memorable. By doing so, I leave my audience with a lasting impression that encompasses not only my passion but also my values in life. Working with different mediums, I am able to design truly unique pieces. My designs have evolved through exploration and instruction. They will continue evolving so long as I am determined to see past the initial, and most obvious, view of the world.