Digital Imitating Darkroom (Infrared)

Here we go again!

So infrared, what is it?

Infrared put simply is a light that is not visible to the human eye in fact we don’t see above 640nm (nanometres – wavelengths of light measurement). Infrared is longer on the spectrum over 700nm. It doesn’t have colour as we know it because we can’t see it and because it can only record light that enters the camera. There is a lot more to it than that and I am no expert so this is my understanding of it.

In photography, infrared is a process that can be done using many techniques in either analogue or digital. You can purchase infrared film, infrared filters or turn the images in to infrared using post production. True infrared photography would be carried out by using infrared film and attaching an infrared filter to the end of your lens, however I have read somewhere that even this method can allow normal light to enter the lens and a filter should be placed behind the mirror inside the camera but I will leave the research on this to you good folks.

I have never used infrared film and cannot compare the results or process for using it; however the image below is one I found on Google.


Burnside Bridge
Photographer – Wallace Billingham

As you can see from the image using Infrared film in conjunction with an infrared filter produces unusual effects. Using these films with a filter produces a soft focus, resulting in dreamy, blurred, images.  The image also benefits from a snowy effect resulting from the reflective nature of the green tones within the trees. This in turn offers a high contrast with the darker tones such as the deep water and dark bricks on the bridge, they absorb the infrared light.

Using the film alone will produce different results but some of the films currently available will still be sensitive to normal light which is why you will need to use a filter to completely block this light only allowing infrared light to penetrate. The images can be slightly grainy depending on the film that you use and because of the long exposures needed to achieve a good quality exposure. For this reason you will need to use a tripod and remote shutter release.

But you don’t wana do it like that, no, you wana do it like this!!

Here are my digital colour and black and white versions of infrared photography without using an on camera filter.

Colour (verging on monochrome)

Not a great advert I have to say but I do like the black and white images for the aesthetics it produces.

Now I couldn’t of picked a worse set of images to try the colour infrared technique. They were taken during the blue hour, when the sun had set but there was still visible light giving these wonderful blue tones. So my images were already blue and part of the process is to add a blue tone. One of the main characteristic of colour infrared is the vivid colours and strange that they are, magenta/pinks for the grass and trees for one but everything is topsy turvy.

Anyway not to give up I decided to try a different image this time one taken a little earlier and hey presto…


If you know anything about me, one thing I Iove is going against the grain, embracing difference and filling my mind and personality with strange and quirky “things”, so it is no surprise that I like the results that this technique produces. I like that it turns everything on its head but does it with conviction and not a subtle, well your tones look a little off, kind of way. I can imagine an artist high on LSD thrashing his painters wrist back and forth with colours as he sees the world at that given moment, when I look at this image. It takes me to places that I only dream about and I like it!

Black and White

Still not successful for reasons unknown, possibly down to my image choice or the way I’ve carried out the technique but the images lack the distinct snowy tones present within infrared photography.

That said I like the effects present within my images, the ranging tones and grain produced from using this technique and I would use it again for future images.

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