Convert A DSLR To Infrared

Seeing Color In Infrared • Making Sense Of Print Size Ratios • Big ’Scapes Need More Space • Kolor Autopano Giga 2.5 For Difficult Panoramas

An infrared image taken with a Canon PowerShot G11 compact camera converted to infrared by Life Pixel. The photo was taken in the Namib Desert, Namibia, Africa. The RAW file was modified for additional color in Photoshop CS5 by reversing color channels. 1/60 sec., f/3.5, ISO 100

Seeing Color In Infrared
Q I’ve seen a lot of digital infrared landscapes lately. Some have different colors in the image that add an element of drama that I don’t see in pure black-and-white infrared. How is this done? I’m about to convert a DSLR.
J. Schmidt
Via the Internet

A Digital SLRs are very sensitive to infrared (IR) light, so they normally have an internal filter that keeps IR rays from reaching the sensor. When a DSLR is converted to infrared capture, the IR cut-off filter in front of the sensor is replaced with a filter that allows only IR light to pass through. The resulting images are black-and-white, with interesting shifts: Vegetation, for example, turns white; blue skies are rendered black.

Recently, there are more options in IR conversions that retain some color. Life Pixel (www.lifepixel.com) offers three color versions. The first is the Standard Color IR Filter that records from the sky a slight amount of blue that can be adjusted from red to blue in Photoshop. The Enhanced Color IR Filter has greater saturation and color range. The Super Color IR Filter offers vibrant, surrealistic effects. The website shows examples of each of the filter options. The hard part is choosing just one. Note that many compact cameras can be converted, as well as DSLRs, so now you have some new options for rehabilitating your previously used digital cameras.

Making Sense Of Print Size Ratios
Q I'm having difficulty figuring out what print/mat/frame sizes best correspond to images taken on my Canon EOS 40D’s native 3x2 sensor. I’d like to print some large photographs, but I’m not sure how to standardize to available frames and mats. Is it better to crop the image to fit? If I choose oversized mats to accommodate my format, is it better to leave more space on the sides for landscape view and less for portrait view, or vice versa? Finally, is there a formula for bottom weighting the photograph? I’m seeking a happy medium without too much custom framing involved.
A. Curtis
Morgan Hill, California

A I feel your pain. Traditional paper, mat and frame sizes (8x10, 11x14 and 16x20) are keyed to 4x5 large-format cameras that once were the standard for portrait studios and press cameras. And papers for today’s inkjet printers are still reflecting sizes relevant to the printed page—8½x11, 13x19 and 17x22 (a two-page signature). So where do any of these standard sizes fit with the 35mm film size or today’s digital sensors, with their 3:2 aspect ratios? Once you get beyond the 4x6 print, they don’t.

It’s not just a factor of the digital age. I remember the frustration of sending my 35mm transparencies to the lab for printing; they offered only the 4x5-compatible sizes. Their solution was to crop off one end of the image so that it would fit on their paper. Not acceptable! So I invested in custom prints on larger stock, trimmed off the excess white paper and had the work professionally framed. Another more economical option was to order a custom mat with a window appropriate to the print and external dimensions appropriate to a standard frame.


I don’t think it’s ever right to crop an image to meet the demands of standard framing. That said, I actually do crop a large majority of my images to fine-tune composition, and I don’t want to make that aesthetic decision based on paper and frame considerations. I also print a lot of panoramas, and those don’t conform to any standards—I print them on roll paper. But with post-capture processing software, I now have much more control over the aspect ratio and final dimensions of my images. When I’m ready to print, I first choose the size of the image I want, then I select a paper of a larger size because I always want a border around the image to allow for safe handling, even if the photograph will be bled to the edge when trimmed or matted to the edge of the image.

If I’m printing images for general sale, I’ll choose a standardized paper size that works with available frames, such as 16x20, in order to save the client the expense of custom framing. I’ll position the image on the page with equal left and right margins, and I might weight the bottom slightly, but there’s no formula—it’s just what looks best. Some photographers sign the mat and need to leave space for that, but I always sign on the image itself, allowing the buyer to change the mat or framing at a later date without losing the signature. When I’m doing a custom job, the sizes are typically much larger and, rather than using the standard mat and frame treatment, I’ll choose alternative presentations, such as the gallery wrap, mount to foam core or stretched canvas. Finally, since I often crop to a square shape, I keep an eye out for square frames. They usually already have someone else’s inexpensive mass-produced painting in them and are being sold in quantity at art supply and home decorating stores, but when I see a frame that’s interesting, I’ll buy it for later use.

Big ’Scapes Need More Space
Q I shoot RAW format almost exclusively and often capture large panoramas. I use both Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 for post-capture processing. RAW files work well in the editing process, but once the editing is complete, they take up a lot of space on my hard drive. Is there any way to conveniently convert these files to a format that doesn’t take up so much hard-drive space?
E. Rogers
Via the Internet

A Once you’ve finished compositing and optimizing your panoramas, you have several format options for saving them. First, flattening the image in Photoshop can significantly reduce the file size if you’ve been working in layers. The problem with flattening is that it eliminates the Photoshop layers and thus you can’t go back to the image later and reconstruct or adjust the work you did with layers in the processing stage.

The JPEG format will flatten the image, reduce its size and, generally, preserve most of its quality if saved at a setting of 10-12 in Photoshop. If you don’t plan to make large prints of your images or open them and rework them, this might work for you. Unfortunately, there will be a loss of quality each time you open and resave an image in the JPEG format.


The PSD and TIFF formats are very similar; both retain all of the size, quality and separate layers of the original image. You can reduce the size in these formats by flattening the image, but you’ll lose the capability of reworking the individual layers later. The TIFF format also offers a lossless compression called LZW while still maintaining layers. That said, I always flatten my images before I send them to anyone else because I want to be sure that they can’t be altered once they’re out of my hands.

The fact is, storage is cheap. A quality 2-terabyte external drive can be had for $100 these days. Because I never want to compromise the future use of an image that’s worth saving, I always store my files in uncompressed TIFF or PSD format with layers intact, and in at least two locations, using a subject-cataloging system that facilitates easy retrieval. I also keep the original RAW files in a separate folder just in case new technology or unforeseen demand renders them useful again.

Kolor Autopano Giga 2.5 For Difficult Panoramas
A new version of Autopano Giga offers a number of features useful to those who want to tackle extremely complex and/or massive panoramas that less capable stitching software is unable to handle. Examples include wide-angle captures with distortion, panos with large undetailed areas such as skies or tiled multiple-image composites such as HDR and Gigapans. Some of the additional features of Autopano Giga 2.5 are the ability to put together pano sequences captured from a moving airplane with multiple points of view and compositing panoramas taken with a fisheye lens. The new program has automatic color and exposure correction and a feature called Neutralhazer anti-haze filter to brighten skies. Go to www.kolor.com to see the possibilities. The folks at Kolor are based in Europe so the prices are listed in euros. This isn’t the cheapest panorama-stitching software, but it’s the most powerful. Kolor also has available a less robust version at half the price for those with a smaller budget.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.

1 Comment

    Regarding size ratios and 13×19 paper – if one allows a half-inch border (adjusting for bottom weighting), for safe handling or other reasons, it works out to a 12×18 image size. Perfectly suited to the 3:2 sensor aspect ratio.

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