soooo. the promised few specific words explaining how to take infrared photographs with a dslr. i am very happy with the results and find the photos better than those with a sony 717 without an infrared block. probably the only better option is a dslr without an IR block, a rather expensive choice for now. i guess the price for an eos 300d or pentax *ist dl is nearly the same compared to a sony 717 with the 2 ND filters. in my opinion, it is better to get a dslr that is also capable of astrophotography.
what you need:
(1) a dslr; (2) a prime lens with a good resolution throuhout the whole frame, without resolution or light losses around the edges. the casual kit lenses usually won’t do; you’d better go for an old, cheap lens, e.g. helios40-2, (I, for one, haven’t tried it. I used the takumar, but my guess is that the helios must work well, as should any prime manual lens from a good maker – Leica, Zeiss, Asahi Pentax, Pentacon, etc). A wider one, e.g. 20mm or 35mm would be even better. AF prime lenses are also OK. (3) hoya r72 infrared filter with the filter size or with a close size with an adaptor ring; (4) a tripod able to keep your camera body and the lens stable enogh; (5) remote cord with bulb mode.
how do we shoot:
(1) wait for a nice sunny day and go to the site at noon, at the brightest sun to a previously chosen location, preferably a place where there are some trees. It’s even better if there is a lake or a river; water makes for unbelieavable shots. (2) set the camera to the lowest ISO value (100 for canon, 200 for the sony matrices); (3) activate the self timer; (4) enable mirror lockup; (5) attach the remote cord, or, if you happen to have an infrared one, simply take it out of your bag. (6) activate noise reduction for long exposures in order to eliminate hot pixels that appear at long exposures; (7) compose the frame through the viewfinder; (8) switch to manual mode, set aperture to 8 or 9 and shutter speet to bulb; (9) attach the IR filter to the lens; (10) take a picture containing as much green color as possible, with a long enough exposure, but without overexposing the picture (see example below). with the canon i used iso 100, aperture 9, speed 80.; (11) load the above picture in the menu for custom white balance, set the white balance to custom, delete the shot, and we are all set. with a pentax the setup is slightly differebnt: skip step 9, enable custom white balance, and then make the shot.
exposure must be long enough so you don’t have underexposed areas in the picure, because it will be impossible to lighten up the picture later. with the canon exposure times at noon were between 80 and 120 seconds. i began with 120 at about 11.30 and fell down to 80 seconds at 13.30. then it got too hot and i wasn’t in the mood for shooting any longer. today we tested with pentaxt *ist ds, and it turned out that its IR protection block lets through much more light than the canon’s one. This makes the pentax a great camare for IR photography because it is very sensitive. with the pentax, it is possible to use aperture 9 and ISO 200 and exposure of about 7-8 seconds, instead of 80 seconds. i am going to test this in more details later. if you check the example below, you would get an idea how long to expose individual shots. exposure will vary depending on light intensity, time of day, shooting direction, etc.
when you open the file in photoshop, it will look differently compared to your camera’s screen. i read somewhere that the color temperature is out of photoshop’s range, which is causing the discrepancy. i can’t guarantee that the above is true, but this doesn’t really matter. the RAW format allows you to fiddle with the color temperature as much as you like without sacrifing image quality. Once you get used to the techinque, you will find your way rather quickly. Of course, you will need to make some trial shots first. I have been playing with this for quire a while, and am finally happy with the results.
on the camera screen, with a well set white balance, you should bee seeing something like this: in photoshop, apply „auto levels“ to get the same result, and adjust further using „color balance“ and „selective colors“. of course, everything depends on the particular shot and the lighting, and there is no universal recipe where and what to touch in the picture color balance amnd selective colors, so you could get the proper „sound“ of the picture. this of course needs its playing and fiddling, but there should be no problems if we have a properly exposed RAW file.
classic b&w infrared picture. to imitate the real infrared film’s grain glow, you can add a „diffuse glow“. for best b/w results, you should use the Channel Mixer instead of simply „desaturate“ (i uses „desaturate“ in this example). to add the glow effect, use filters > distort > diffuse glow with settings like graininess = 2, glow amount = 1 and clear amount = 7 and change them to your liking. I didn’t apply that – I’ve been looking for a noiseless infrared for about 2 years, and don’t really feel like adding noise at this stage.
how to achieve this:
(1) open the file in PS. apply auto levels, and try to make it look like example #2 (which was difficult to manage with the pentax, because we shot some streets with cars and no sky). If you can’t get the results from #2 at this stage, use Color Balance; (2) in channel mixer, output channel: red set the red source channel from 100 to 0 and the blue from 0 to 100. in output channel: blue set the red source channel from 0 to 100, and the blue from 100 to 0. (3) in „hue/saturation“ and „edit: magentas“ set saturation to -100. we do the same in edit: reds. if needed, also in „edit: yellows“; (4) use „selective colors“ and „color balance“ to adjust the colors further to your liking. you may also want to apply some desaturation to the blue channel at point 3. if the blue color is too strong.
and that’s it. i am waiting for the 300d or pentax *ist dl to start selling for 250 bucks second hand. then i will buy myseld a dedicated body for IR photography, and will remove its IR block.
this howto is licensed under creative commons by-nc-2.5 license. all photos are licensed under all rights reserved.
thanks to Pavel Belchev for the translation!