I get a lot of e-mail about how to take IR (infra red) photos so I decided to create this page to give you some pointers, but remember not all digital cameras work for IR photos. They all have a IR blocker built into the camera: some are stronger than others so you may have to find a camera better suited for IR photography. Going to the Yahoo link at the bottom of the page will help you find a suitable camera for IR photos.
The IR photos you saw in my IR Photos gallery were taken with the Sony A100 and a Minolta 50mm 1.4 or a Sony 18-70mm (the kit lens). I had also used a Canon 7D and a modified Canon G5. The filter I used is a Hoya R72 IR filter except that with the modified G5 I didn't require a Hoya filter as the G5 had been modified internally to shoot IR photos. I've heard of another person using the A100 and a R90 filter, but you require longer shutter speeds.
There are other strengths of IR filters but the R72 is the more common choice and maybe easier to find. The stronger filters (R90) are more expensive. My R72 cost me $70 CDN for a filter with a diameter of 55 mm - a larger one will be much more money. I think it was something like $260 for a R72 IR filter to fit a lens with a 67mm diameter opening.
There are at least two trains of thought on setting the custom white balance (page 48 in your A100 manual). I was told that to properly set your custom white balance was to take the lens with your IR filter on it, and on a bright sunny day point the camera at the lawn and set the WB.
It took me many, many attempts to set the WB. You need to either get lucky and get it set right away, or have patience. I think I was like - if it doesn't work this time, the heck with it...
The other train of thought is to do this while pointing the camera at the blue sky. I heard of this after I set my WB. Once I had it set, I never messed with the Custom WB again as I don't want to try and reset the A100 for the IR filter. Now that I shoot mainly with the Canon 7D, I don't have to worry about custom white balance as much as the camera has 3 custom settings buttons you can set.
I found my Minolta 50mm 1.4 a better lens as it's a faster lens so doesn't require such a long shutter speed as say my slower 18-70mm lens, but the 18-70 lens allows you to zoom in and out a bit, the 50mm is also sharper. Keep in mind that you will not be able to compose your shot with the IR filter on (you can't see anything with it on), so either set up the camera to point the general position you want and take a test shot, or compose with out the filter on. I didn't have much troubles focusing with the filter on, but you might want to focus without the filter on, then set it to manual focus or something like that to keep the focus where you want it.
I don't recommend looking at the sun through the filter - just in case. No point in going blind or possibly damaging your sensor.
Shutter speed depends on your lens and the amount of light (obviously!). I tend to set the camera to manual and choose a F stop around the F 5.6 or something like that (up to you, but we have to start with something). I then set the shutter speed to what ever (depending on the lens), say 2 seconds when using the 50mm 1.4 lens. I take a shot, and check out what I got. If it's too dark, then you need a longer shutter speed, and if too bright - a shorter shutter speed is needed. I should mention - a tripod is a must! I also sometimes use a cable release, but that might be overkill - setting the camera to shoot with the 2 or 10 second timer will do the same thing (reduce vibration).
The hardest thing I found with this was setting the CWB. And finding a good location for shooting IR photos. Cemeteries seem cliche since everyone goes there (including me). But I kinda like the look of a cemetery photo taken with a IR filter. I got into IR photos in the fall so I didn't get a lot of days when I could go out for photos, but maybe this year that will change. I also like the look of IR photos of waterfalls as I really like the slower shutter speeds to get that milky effect on the water. This way, you can also go out in the middle of a bright sunny day instead of a cloudy day to get that milky effect.
The photos you see in my IR gallery where all JPG's more or less straight out of the camera - except that one shot that shows a blue sky. That was a RAW file with the red/blue channels switched in Adobe Photoshop CS2. I personally like the look of the jpg straight out of the camera. Less work in the computer as well.
You might find with longer shutter speeds a large ghostly white 'blotch' in the middle of the photo when using the A100 - this is due to the lens: you didn't mess up. I found this information on another site:
"...In addition to the sensitivity of the sensor the quality of digtal infrared depends on the characteristic of the lens.
For example, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 typically produces a pronounced hot spot.The hot spot is a a result of internal reflections within the lens produced by the lens' coatings. Some types of coating are not transparent to near-infrared wavelengths..."
The large Jesus on the cross photo in my gallery had that blotch in the photo, but with a little work with the dodge/burn tool I was able to diminish it. The Konica Minolta 5D/7D might have a purplish haze, instead of the white blotch.
Some work with the contrast, highlight/shadow work and sharpening is more or less all I do with my IR photos.
I might have gotten lucky when I finally got the CWB set, but I personally really like the way the jpg's look straight out of the camera.
I hope this helps you at least a little bit. And I really hope you get that CWB set as it can be so tricky/picky. But I swear you will love IR photography once you're all set up. Not everyone likes the look of IR photos, but I do. I found I started to really enjoy photography again as I was feeling a little stagnant. Photography started to get fun for me again but then the snow arrived so I had to put away the IR filter for the season.
If you have any other questions, please let me know and I will try to help. Also, try the forums at Dyxum.com as you might be able to gleam some more pointers there. Another place I go to is located at Yahoo as that group is for IR photography.
Canon 40D for IR
The spring of 2008 finally arrived so I tried a few IR photos with the Canon 40D, Sigma 50mm 2.8, and Hoya R72 IR filter. Ir photos from the Canon 40D can also be found here in my IR photography gallery.
I think I might prefer the Canon 40D versus the Sony A100 for a couple reasons. First off, it was incredibly easy to set the CWB while the R72 filter was on the lens - it only took two tries to set the CWB. Maybe I just got lucky? Who knows.
The second reason why I might prefer the 40D is that the white/bluish splotch I talked about aboe never happened. At least - not so far. The only problem is that the filter only fits the Sigma 50mm lens so I am stuck shooting with that one lens.
Canon 7D for IR
I gave my 40D away after purchasing my 7D so now I use the Canon 7D and the modified Canon G5 for shooting IR shots. The nice thing about the modified G5 is there is a lot less work once you get the photo into the computer but the screen is pretty small. The 7D still requires a bit of a longer shutter speed which can be a bit of a problem if there is any wind at the time of the photo. I still have my Canon 10D that I am planning on converting to shoot IR. Once converted, you can shoot with normal shutter speeds without the use of a IR filter on your lens. Also, if your camera has live view, you can easily compose the photo.
© 2007 Derek Kennedy