How to edit infrared images.
At the editing stage it may be difficult to give your photos a different treatment than you’d expect to as you’re breaking out your copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. But these images deserve to be seen from a new angle.
“Infrared photography reveals an unseen light, but at the same time, it challenges people to think about what reality is in a photograph.”
Photographer Richard Binhammer
Binhammer calls it “seeing the unseen” – and there are many ways to make this adjusted reality even more surreal using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
Purists may show concerns about the authenticity of channel swapping, but considering what we’re dealing with isn’t visible to the naked eye to begin with, you’ll appreciate that what goes through the edit is merely done to accentuate what the eye can’t see.
To that end, colours will still appear unnatural – haunting even – once you’ve done your thing. For example, a blue sky will still contain darker blue elements because the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs a lot of IR radiation, creating a darker look. Swap the red and blue channels with the channel mixer to make your false-colour landscapes more psychedelic.
As we’ve established during the storied history of IR photography, it removes the hazy effects which the eye (and camera lens) would pick up under normal circumstances. It means images appear sharper. One way to really turn the contrasts up to 11 is to turn the colours all the way down.
Black and white infrared photography gives your images a clear, crisp quality – particularly in nature. Waters and skies appear darker, while trees and bushes are whiter – as are clouds. These contrasts stand out clear as day (and night) when you filter out the rest of the spectrum.
Removing the IR hot spot.
One unfortunate side effect of shooting with regular old equipment converted for IR is the hot spot which may appear in the centre of your shots. Some lenses are more likely to produce the effect than others, so prevention would be better than the cure if you do your research in advance of a shoot.
If your images are still plagued by the hot spot – a bright circle in the centre – it is possible to apply some small fixes to reduce the effect, if not eliminate it entirely.
Use the Radial Filter tool in its Invert Mask setting in Lightroom to select the affected area. Then make adjustments to Exposure, Clarity and White Balance to correct the off-putting effects of a hot spot.
Adobe’s infrared photography partners.
The following expert photographers contributed to this infrared photography guide.
- Kaitlin Kelly is a Los Angeles-based photographer specialising in portraiture, landscape, and digital infrared photography. See Kaitlin’s work.
- Richard Binhammer is a self-taught Virginia-based photographer who has exhibited works across the United States. See Richard’s work.