3 ways to photograph infrared images

June 29, 2016, 9:32 a.m.
An infrared landscape with trees.
Photo: LING KUOK LOUNG/Shutterstock

Have you ever been interested in creating the otherworldly images made using infrared photography? There are three simple ways you can try this out for yourself.

Infrared film: The first option is to try infrared film. A roll of 35mm IR film is available for as little as $10.50. Pop it into an SLR camera and try photographing landscapes, people and other subjects. The results may completely surprise you!

The cost of developing the film can be more expensive than a regular roll, and you may have to mail it to a lab capable of processing it if your local lab doesn't have the ability.

Infrared filter for lenses: If you don't want to mess with film, you can try an IR filter that screws onto the lens of your DSLR. These can run anywhere from $30 to well over $100 depending on the size and quality you're looking for. It is a small investment upfront but you are virtually unlimited in the number of IR images you can take once you have it.

The down side is that you typically have to use long exposures of anywhere from 15 seconds to over a minute — even on sunny days — to allow enough light to hit your camera's sensor to make a photograph. So this option works well for still landscapes but not for moving subjects.

Infrared camera conversion: A third choice is to convert a digital camera to an infrared camera. This involves removing a filter over the sensor that usually blocks IR light. If you have an extra digital camera body lying around and you want to dabble in infrared for landscapes or portraits of people, this is probably the best option.

You can do the conversion yourself, if you're very comfortable working with delicate electronics. If not, you can send it in to a company like LifePixel that specializes in converting cameras to IR, and even has a range of IR filters to add on to your digital camera's sensor so you can get a particular look to your photos.

Either way, having a dedicated DSLR for IR photography is great for someone who wants to take time experimenting in this style of photography.

The results can be simply breathtaking!