Seeing the infrared light can take your photography to entirely new places
By Bob Krist
In JPEG, getting the proper white balance for IR is important. Life Pixel’s regular IR conversion includes setting a custom white-balance temperature for the camera, but if you don’t find it’s to your taste, and your camera can do custom white-balance readings, Life Pixel recommends taking a white-balance reading off of green grass.
There are a number of ways to convert the infrared image you get into black-and-white. You can order a conversion that’s black-and-white only, probably the fastest and easiest way (straight IR conversions allow some color in, and the image has to be converted to pure black-and-white later).
Some users prefer to do it all in Photoshop. Right now, I shoot in RAW, make my contrast and exposure adjustments, desaturate the image and then go into Photoshop for further tweaking. But I’m researching and experimenting with other ways of achieving the same net result using different tools. At this writing, I’m not interested in the weird effects of color infrared, so all of my experimenting has been in the realm of black-and-white. Your tastes may vary, of course.
LDP LLC (201) 882-0344 www.maxmax.com Offers a wide variety of conversion options, including camcorders. Prices start at $450 for SLR conversions.
Life Pixel Infrared Conversion Services (866) 610-1710 www.lifepixel.com Offers three different IR conversions: IR color, IR enhanced color and IR deep black-and-white. Prices range from $250 and up. Converts a wide variety of D-SLRs and point-and-shoots
In The Field. The basic look of black-and-white infrared usually renders foliage and grass snowy white, while making blue skies and water dark and dramatic. It loves dramatic cloudscapes, and it does wonderful things to the texture of human skin, where it seems to put a mild glow and suppress blemishes and imperfections. You never really know what you’ll get until you shoot, which is part of the excitement of playing around with these cameras.
Infrared film was very slow, ISO-wise, and often required long exposures, and hence, a tripod. Digital infrared is a lot faster, although sometimes I find I have to go to +1 or +2 in exposure compensation to get a presentable histogram of a certain scene (remember, with infrared, just as with your regular digital shooting, never judge exposure from the way the picture looks on your LCD—always use the histogram). But in most outdoor light conditions, I can handhold my camera at ISO 200.
As with any digital camera, clipping highlights is to be avoided, if at all possible. The tonal range from an IR-converted camera may not stretch out to the edges of your histogram display, so you can us the—blinking highlights—setting on your playback menu to check quickly for clipped highlights or just watch for a sudden crowding up of pixels on the right side of your histogram—the same look that you see when, with a conventional image, it hits the right side of the histogram graph.
Experiment And Have Fun. I’ve been in a mode of taking less and less equipment on the road in the last couple of years, but I’m finding that carrying the infrared body and lens isn’t too much of a hardship. However, I’ve just sent out one of my favorite EVF cameras, a Nikon Coolpix 8400, for conversion to save me a few ounces and inches in the bag. With it’s 8-megapixel sensor, 24mm wide-angle lens and ability to record in RAW, it will be easy for me to shoot infrared any time, any place. And so, my conversion continues!
For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com.