15 Aug

Roar. Grr. Rawr. IR.

So, infrared photography.

Cool stuff, right?


But man, what a bitch.

Wait, what is infrared photography?

Pretty much, you take a photograph of infrared light. WHICH IS TOTALLY COOL! Our eyes cannot (virtually) distinguish infrared light so when you photograph it, you get some pretty interesting images. Things that are familiar take on new casts and previously nigh-invisible things pop out.

The most notable bit is that after post processing, green things turn white resulting in a surreal landscape of powder-puff trees and snow-grass fields. The sky darkens into this rich blue – so different from the standard “blue sky” shade that we are used to. It is very alien.

To illustrate my point, here is what a properly processed infrared photograph should look like:

Feel free to google more if you find yourself interested! I know I did hence the despair and rage at failPhotos.

To illustrate that point, here are a few of my [failed] attempts. Note: they have not been post processed! But trust me, no amount of Photoshop will save these puppies. They are dead to me.

Oh god, my eyes...

Oh god, my eyes…

This is totally normal.

This is totally normal.

This is NOT normal!

This is NOT normal!

Awww, cute...

Awww, cute…

This would be a very interesting photograph... IF NOT FOR THE RED DEATH AND PEE-COLORED CLOUDS!!

This would be a very interesting photograph… IF NOT FOR THE RED DEATH AND PEE-COLORED CLOUDS!!

What am I doing wrong?!

I didn’t exactly jump into this subject, mind you. I spent some time reading and trying to understand it before I decided I would take a shot at it. Granted, in a rather un-Birdy like bit of sporadicness I went and bought an inexpensive but highly-reviewed IR filter off of Amazon. I figured for $15 + free shipping, I didn’t have much to lose. I still don’t! Even the time I spent out trying to get the shots was fun. I got to hang out at the park in the sun and feel like a neat photographer with all of my gear. I AM LEGIT BECAUSE I CARRY A TRIPOD!

… only not so much.

Anyway, from what I gathered, here is what I should have done:

1) Get an IR filter or IR-modded camera. I got the filter because I’m too poor to mod my camera and I wasn’t willing to give up my ONLY DSLR to the mod gods for something that I hadn’t even tried yet.

2) Know your settings! Low ISO to keep the noise down, big aperture to keep the focus neat, sloooooow shutters speed to make sure you get enough light through the dense IR filter, and compose your scene BEFORE you put your filter on your lens. Oh, and tripod.

3) Set your white balance to something fancy that I don’t understand and this is a really important part I guess I should figure it out!

See that step 3 right there? Yeah, that’s the kicker. That’s the one that ALL of the knowledge bases just slide right by like you should automatically know what the fuck is going on because since you’re JUST STARTING OUT with IR photography and reading things and watching things you obviously don’t need any further explanation on custom white balance.


The first batch of red death happened without using a custom white balance. I pretty much derped about in Cloudy because that’s what I do since I like things warm. That should work, right?


So after I destroy all of the cones in my retinas, I come home and  read read read read read.

OH! It seems I have to set a custom white balance. That seems straight forward enough. I just take a picture of something bright green, like grass in full sunlight and then set that picture as the source for my white balance. Easy enough! A quick YouTube video showed me how to do that with my T3i.

Time for photograph excursion #2!


The first two images shown were from Day 1, with no custom white balance. The next two are from Day 2, with a custom white balance of some bright tree leaves. Why so ugly? WHY?!

It seems that I am supposed to take the custom white balance photo of the bright, green something WITH the IR filter on! GENIUS!

It took a forum thread from 2008 with someone having the exact same problem for me to figure this out. Woo

I can’t tell you how many tutorials I read before that tiny yet very immensely important snippet of information appeared.

Shoot your custom WB photo with the filter on. Magnificent!

Tomorrow is another day. I’m hoping for some sun. I’m going to do it right this time. The aperture is right. The ISO is right. Bulb mode is locked and ready to go. The tripod is quivering with expectation (but will stand totally still when I need to use her). The filter is practically jumping on my lens… and with god as my witness, I will never shoot with the incorrect white balance again!

Then you get to read me rage about post-processing. :3 YAY~!