I was 7 years and was surprised when someone told me there are more than 7 colors. Later I realized the human eye has a limited color perception and it can only see those seven colors of the rainbow. Infrared is a color spectrum which falls outside the perception of the human eye. So you can’t see infrared. But why try to photograph infrared when you can’t see it?
Well, the cameras can see it and they can make an image of it which shows up to the human eye in the picture. Just like any other color in the spectrum, infrared is a single color. So the image you get is formed by the variation in the infrared levels in the scene. The picture that comes out it totally black and white but – surprise, it’s an image of something we have never seen. Without going into the physics let me mention that infrared is emitted by all warm objects and reflected by all objects which are opaque to infrared.
So What Is Infrared Photography?
Infrared photography is all about capturing infrared wavelengths, which means we need to photograph the wavelengths ranging from about 700 nm to about 900 nm. And to capture the infrared radiations, the image sensor or the filter has to be sensitive to infrared light. The DSLR sensor or even film SLRs allow you to control the sensitivity required to shoot infrared. But there’s something that has to be taken care of – we need to ensure that the other colors do not reach the sensor else the image will be like any other image.
The infrared filters come to your rescue. These specialized filters allow only the infrared wavelengths to enter the camera lens. Infrared filters are available online and you can use the Hoya Infrared Filter which is one of the most popular infrared filters. Make sure you buy the right size.
One important thing to note here is that infrared photography requires extended exposures or shutter-speed to absorb whatever little of the infrared light is available. Thus the use of a tripod is mandatory. As a workaround you can place the camera on a stable surface, compose the scene and shoot. Shoot stationary subjects and you shall be fine.
Want to try infrared photography? Check out a few handy tips & beautiful infrared photographs for inspiration here.