Infrared photography is not a new technique: it's been around for over 100 years
. The first infrared photograph was taken by Professor Robert Williams Wood and was published in the Royal Photographic Society Journal in 1910. Infrared photography became popular in the psychedelic hype of the 1960's, for example Jimi Hendrix, Donovan or the Grateful Dead released albums with infrared photos on their covers.
The famous Jimi Hendrix cover by Karl Ferris (1967) : [link]
The world's probably best known infrared image is from a later date though, from 1984: U2's album cover for their LP, The Unforgettable Fire: [link]
So what is this infrared thing about?
Light can be described as an electromagnetic wave. The energy of this wave depends on the wavelength of the light. The range between ca. 400-750 nanometers
is called 'visible light'
, as the human eye can record only this part of light. 750 nm is the deepest visible red, while 400 nm is the deepest visible violet. The infrared spectrum
ranges from 750 to 1 million nanometers, but in photography we only use the 'near infrared'
(read: this is the nearest to visible light) spectrum, that ranges from 750 to 1400 nanometers
Even though the human eye does not see the infrared spectrum, it can be recorded and thereby made visible using different mediums - analog black and white or color film specifically made sensitive for this wavelength, or by any commercially available digital sensor
. The look of these images varies depending on the medium, wavelength and postproduction used, but they have a few things in common: the "infrared look"
. This comes from the different behavior of this spectrum compared to visible light.
Sorry folks, this is the end of Part 1 - for now!Coming up next in Part 2:
As green foliage reflects more infrared light than visible, foliage "glows" in infrared
The infrared wavelength is not susceptible to haze
, therefore landscapes are outstandingly clear
, and skies are much darker
than you are used to with your own eyes.
However, fog or dust has the same effect on the picture as if it had been shot in visible light.
The human skin gets a unique, alabaster-like look
where all the small skin defects disappear (however, superficial veins become more visible).
How to make use of a digital camera to make infrared photographs? What are the pros and drawbacks of each method?
Coming up next in Part 3:
What technical problems will one face if decides to do infrared photography, compared to visible light? (hotspot, focus shift, etc.) What are the most effective ways to solve/work around them?
Coming up next in Part 4:
The problem of choice: which infrared filter is the best?
Coming up next in Part 5+:
Enough with preproduction and production: let's move on to the postprocessing!