Is Infrared Photography for you?
Infrared Photography as could be seen on various Web Sites like flickr.com is mesmerizing. There are so many amazing infrared pictures. A year ago, I bought a used Canon 50D that I sent to lifepixel.com for infrared conversion. Since then, I am trying to get used to Infrared Photography and here is the full report on it.
How does this Canon Infrared 50D deliver the goods?
Converting a Camera to IR is a permanent change. The operation means removing the Infrared filter in front of the camera sensor and replacing it by a visible light filter.
I have opted for the Super Blue filter. Along with infrared light this filter allows some of the blue light to reach the sensor. My Canon infrared 50D did the back and forth travel to lifepixel.com within two weeks.
Challenges associated with Infrared Photography.
The Infrared filter in front the sensor is blocking most of the visible light. This means that looking through the viewfinder, nothing changes. However, the resulting image will be much different. Taking pictures while looking through the viewfinder is tricky.
This also means that focusing and metering are not correct anymore. On most DSLR focusing occur trough the viewfinder focusing points. Infrared light properties are different and correct focusing is only possible through live view. Using live view you get exactly on the screen what the sensor is recording. Live view is also the best way for metering exposition. Using live view extensively will drain battery faster. Bring some spare battery with you.
I chose the Super blue filter by lifepixel.com. I also bought a 77mm RM72 Infrared Glass Filter made by Hoya. This filter passes only infrared light over 720nm. When this filter is on my lens, it prevents all visible light from reaching the sensor. Using this filter is just like if I had performed a standard Infrared conversion.
Option #1: Super blue filter.
In this mode, pictures needs less change to look nice most of the time. I use a grey card to set up proper white balance. If exposed correctly, the resulting picture looks good. Working in Lightroom or Photoshop could bring the picture to life and make them very nice. There is a potential challenge associated with chromatic aberration. Since the blue wavelength, at one end of the spectrum do not focus at the same place on the sensor than infrared wavelength. In some case, pictures are just bad. Some lenses are better than others. I suggest your research this online to see what combination work well.
Option #2: Super blue filter with visible light filter on the lens.
In this mode we are back at the usual Infrared Picture where only deep red and near infrared wavelength reach the sensor. There is no chromatic aberration and the recorded image is reddish. Swapping the red and blue channel in Photoshop makes these picture looks very nice with blue sky. Looking through the viewfinder is of no help. The RM72 Infrared Filter block visible light. This also means that exposition and focus is only possible using live view.
Option #3: converting to Black and White.
In either of the first two options, converting pictures to black and white give very nice results. Sky is usually darker and vegetation is very bright. This is one of my preferred mode for IR photography. By changing your picture mode in Camera to Black and White, you can see on the screen what your picture will look like once converted.
The main advantage to Infrared Photography is to shoot, very nice picture, when the sun is high in the sky. Shadows are not your enemies anymore with IR photography.
All in all I am very happy with my infrared conversion. Should you go forward yourself, I strongly recommend to check all the documentation on Lifepixel.com before committing to it. Remember, this is a permanent change.
About you, do you like Infrared Pictures?