Since this is my first posting, I wanted to explain a few things. My intention is show you ways to become a better Infrared Photographer, and enjoy the experience of capturing IR images. The important thing to keep in mind is this is an art form, and as such there many ways to create stunning Infrared images. What I will show are the techniques that I have had success with. I welcome feedback and suggestions on future subjects to make this Blog more useful. My contact information is available on my Bio page.
White balance and Shooting RAW
The two things that I feel make the biggest impact on an IR image are white balance and shooting in RAW.
White balance is the process of removing color casts, so that objects which appear white in reality are rendered white in your image. Many digital cameras do an excellent job of white balance on color images. With your IR converted camera, you need to “tell” the camera what white is. Since most IR produces images with foliage (trees, grass) as white, they are a natural for white balance. Each camera has a different procedure for manual white balance, but most allow for you to take and image to use as a reference. That image is used to establish what white is.
RAW image capture is a method by which you have all the image data from your camera sensor with very little processing. RAW images need to be processed and save into another format for printing and most editing. The advantage is a RAW image can be adjusted before converting to whatever format you use. Most RAW convertors have the ability to manually white balance. Shooting in RAW with a manual white balance gives you two opportunities to get the color tones the way you want.
For an example, let’s look at an image shot with difference white balance settings. This is an image of the St. Louis Arch grounds. Here is the image shot with the camera on full automatic.
The image appears at first to be all Red, with only very slight Blue or Cyan tones. This next image is the same scene, but this time the grass was used as a reference for a manual white balance.
Now we start to see a bit more color separation. The foreground has much less of a red-ish tone and the image appears to have more depth. This image was shot with a manual white balance, and then the RAW image was processed with an additional white balance using the grass in the RAW image as a reference.
This image has more depth, and color separation. From here, the Infrared image can be processed in which way you choose. Here are some examples:
Chan Garrett says
I an currently having my Canon eos rebel t3i converted using your 830nm filter (deep b&w?). Once I create a custom white balance using brightly lit green grass, will lightroom open my raw file in the proper light balance? Will I need to use canon dpp to open the original file prior to going into lightroom or ps?
Daniel Malkin says
No, the only way to retain the embedded custom white balance within the RAW file is to use DPP. This is the only program that will both retain the embedded custom wb within the RAW file as well as allow you to change it easily if you need to or want to. Once you are done in DPP, simply convert to a TIFF or JPEG before going into PS or LR.
If you want to use Adobe as your RAW converter, there is a method that works for some involving the Adobe DNG Profile Editor but this is much more complicated compared with using DPP.
Thanks for your advice. I have been messing around more with raw images and have really been enjoying it. I have been wanting to learn more about how to enhance the color and balance of my photos, (I am a newbie photographer), and this post was great.
Thanks again for your post.
andrea burke says
I am looking into converting a camera and trying to decide what filter to go with. I like the idea of having options in processing to get different looks with the camera once it is converted. What filter was used in this converted camera when these RAW captures were made? All the changes in the color look were made in post processing?
Daniel Malkin says
The first image is our Enhanced Color filter but the 3 images at the bottom are examples from our Super Color.
Deborah Pietrangelo says
Can’t thank you enough for the outstanding information regarding white balance, why it is so important and how to adjust it. One question comes to mind, especially at this time of year, is there a decent/acceptable substitute for the green grass?
Vitaly Druchinin says
Absolutely Deborah, I often use cement sidewalks where available but a normal grey card or even a neutral white sheet of paper will work well in most cases. Of course you can just shoot RAW and adjust the white balance in post, there’s a couple videos on the process here: https://www.lifepixel.com/tutorials/infrared-photoshop-videos