InfraRed – An Introduction

Roy lent me his infrared-modified Canon PowerShot A3000 IS last week. It’s not a great camera; it’s got no manual mode, no RAW, hardly any resolution and it’s noisy but the IR conversion makes it a lot of fun. I haven’t really shot IR before, so I just played around with it. It really requires a rethink of the way I see things, but I found it fascinating. I’m in love with the way the IR forms recognizable shapes but can completely change the tonality of common things, especially leaves. Also, IR finds incredible contrast in the sky.

The images from this camera tended to be very low contrast. I found myself pushing the black and white points together in a levels adjustment layer to use the full 8bit tonal range. I don’t know if that’s unique to this particular camera, or if that’s normal for all IR converted cameras. I tried really hard to find a magical way of abstractly colorizing the photos, however more often than not I just ruined any detail that actually made it into the original image. My experience is that a Gradient Map adjustment layer in Overlay or SoftLight mode had the best results, but it only works on abstract designs. One could play around with the gradient editor and eventually create some amazing gradient that reimagines the original, but I think if I wanted to recolor an image I’d shoot it in color. That would give me three channels to work with, making selections that target specific tones and hues easier.

I love the look of IR, and I’m looking forward to getting my own IR modified camera.

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