Infrared Photography Basics
By Mike Grogan
Sometimes you have to bend the rules. Especially when it comes to Infrared photography.
EDITOR'S NOTE: KODAK HAS JUST DISCONTINUED HIGH SPEED INFRARED FILM, BUT IT IS STILL AVAILABLE AT ADORAMA...CLICK ON THEIR LOGO ABOVE!
Until recently, I didn't know a whole lot about Infrared photography. I thought it would be neat to try it, so I did some research. After I was through with researching, I bought some film and started shooting. All of my photos were technically correct, but lacked the two most important things- feeling and emotion. I quickly discovered that a lot of experimentation is needed to get the look and feel that speaks to your muse.
HOW IR FILM WORKS:
Infrared film is sensitive to both light we can see and light we can't see (above 700 nm). IR film is also sensitive to UV light (below 400 nm). Everything is different on black and white IR film: Vegetation is light, light skys are dark while clouds stay light. IR film gives very high contrast; for instance, stone bricks on a building would be very dark against a very light tree in front of it. The two major kinds of 35mm black and white films are KODAK high speed Infrared film, and KONICA Infrared 750. There is also ILFORD SFX 200 film, which gives you a mild IR image when used with a red filter (this is because of its high red sensitivity). This film is neat because, unlike with standard IR film, SFX doesn't need to loaded in total darkness, and is more forgiving than traditional IR films. SFX 200 can also be used as regular film when used without a red filter. Prices for IR film range from $6.00 to $15.00 per roll.
CAMERAS AND LENSES:
Only certain cameras are fit to be used with Infra-Red film. Cameras that use Infra-Red to focus, such as the CANNON EOS series, may not be suitable for Infra-Red photography. To test your camera, buy a roll of IR film and load in complete darkness. Then, take pictures in as many different lighting conditions as possible. Your camera is suitable for IR photography if the images appear and aren't fogged.
Be aware that some pressure plates (the flat metal rectangles behind the film in the camera that are designed to keep the film plane flat while the picture is being taken) can cause a problem. Some plates with dimples will leave dimple marks on the IR film. KODAK's high speed IR film allows some of the light reflected from the pressure plate to reflect on the film. This is because it lacks a anti halo layer, and will only accrue in some cameras. Try and use a wide angle lens if possible, but try and experiment with different lenses. Use manual focus wherever possible.
Here is a list of the most common black and white IR filters: Wratten number: 25, 29 - general purpose, 70, 89b, 88a, 87, 87c, 87b.
There is more Infra-Red light when it is bright outside. The best time to shoot for high contrast is after sunrise and before sunset. Use a flash to increase the amount of IR and visible light.
Develop IR film as soon as possible If this is not possible put film your in the refrigerator. Take your time unloading the film. Because different films require different chemicals, develop as stated on the directions for your film.
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