Infrared Digital Camera
Or A Reasonable Facsimile
Let's learn how to produce the fake infrared digital camera photo look through post processing.
This tutorial deals with the infrared digital manipulation to produce a black and white photo; where we start in color mode and then convert it to monochrome.
A common method to create fake infrared images with your photo editor uses the channel mixer. Think of it as an adjustable infrared filter in your software instead of on your camera lens.
Let's say you're in Photoshop CS3 and have the image open. Look at the bottom of your layers palette. See that half-moon circle? That's your adjustment layer. Click, hold and select the channel mixer.
Check the monochromatic box to turn the image to grayscale and then balance/mix the three colors to achieve the desired fake infrared image look. The rule of thumb is to max out the green, tame the red and practically silence the blue.
My settings for the fake infrared images on this page were Red +100, Green +200, Blue -200. If this produces a blown-out look, try adjusting your 'constant' setting to a negative percentage. Also, the aforementioned RGB settings result in a contrasty image. By putting the Red into a negative number, you will reduce the contrast.
Flatten the image and duplicate this layer.
And duplicate the layer again so you have three identical, monochromatic layers.
Hide the top layer.
Select the middle layer and put it in screen mode.
Select the top layer, put it in multiply mode, add a gaussian blur 15 pixels to give it a neat glowing effect, and make the opacity 75%.
Select middle layer, change opacity to 80%.
Flatten the image and Bob's your uncle you're all done.
On the other side of the coin, what if you don't want to do the post-processing method of obtaining an IR image.
There are a couple of ways to achieve the infrared digital camera effect on the camera:
A. Use an IR filter with/without digicams which are equipped with night shot capabilities.
B. Perform some camera surgery to produce a converted IR digital camera. The removal of the 'hot mirror' from the top of the sensor is the secret to allowing the sensor to capture the IR, UV and visible light.
The filter/night shot route is obviously the safest as it doesn't tinker with the inner mechanics of your camera.
Some digital cameras are more IR sensitive than others, which means if you use an IR filter your shutter speed will either be fast enough for handheld or so long that you'll need a tripod.
A quick and dirty way to test the IR capability is with your TV remote control. Point your remote about a foot away from your lens and press any button on the remote. When observed through your camera's viewfinder, a good IR beam will be bright with a blue tinge. If the beam is dim, go find your tripod.
Here is an example of a photo with a converted Sony DSC-F828 taken by Nevit Dilmen at Kalamış, Istanbul.
Return from Infrared Digital Camera to Black And White Pictures main page.