Infrared Shooting Techniques


Many folks that start shooting infrared images are discouraged when they have images that have an overall red cast in there raw images. If you’re shooting JPEG images this is easy to fix. You’ll need to set a custom white balance, so consult your camera’s manual on how to do that. You’ll want to use green grass for the custom WB image. This will neutralize the grass so that your green foliage will now appear white and the sky will be a sepia tone. Note that some cameras will not be able to handle the extreme white balance shift and will give an error message. In this case set the WB to a Kelvin temperature of 2500ºK or lower if possible. If you still have a red cast, you can edit the image in camera raw and use the WB eyedropper to neutralize the cast by clicking on some green foliage.

Shooting in Raw requires the same WB procedure as outlined above with some added difficulties if you’re using Photoshop. Your in camera images will look fine, but when viewed in Photoshop’s Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom that nasty red cast will appear again.  Note: Almost any other raw processing software will not have this problem. For some reason Adobe has not incorporated enough WB range to accurately record the camera’s custom WB, as evidenced by the WB temperature adjustment slider being buried all the way to the left. At this point you can live with the red cast, try to eliminate it in Photoshop or just convert the image to Black and White - yuck. There is another option, however it will require some initial effort on your part. You need to create a custom camera profile for the image that will get rid of most of that red cast and prevent the temperature WB slider in from being pinned all the way to the left. Adobe has a free program called ‘DNG profile editor’ available as a free download for both Windows and Mac. You’ll need to enter your Adobe ID or create one prior to downloading. Locate the download and following the instructions, install the software. 

Next you’ll need to use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom’s export feature to create a DNG file from one of your raw infrared images - any image will do regardless of exposure. A DNG file is Adobe’s lossless version of a raw file which actually is more efficient than the manufacturer’s raw files with regard to space. Make a mental note of where your saved DNG image is located on your computer, as you’ll need this for the next step. Locate the DNG profile editor program you installed and open it. With the DNG profile editor now open, go to ‘file>open DNG image’ and navigate to the DNG image you just created. Click on the ‘Color Matrices’ tab and adjust the WB slider to -50 as shown below. You want to save this profile so go to ‘file>export profile’ and give it an appropriate name such as “Canon 20D IR”. Note: the DNG profile editor will automatically choose the correct location for you profile so the all Adobe software has access to it. You can also save the ‘recipe’ so you can refine the profile at a later date perhaps using the tone curve or one of the other adjustment tabs with the DNG profile editor. The hard part’s done. If you have Photoshop or Lightroom open you’ll need to quit and restart the program so it recognizes the newly created profile. Note this profile will only be available for the camera from which it was created. Select one of your camera raw infrared images from within Lightroom or Bridge. Open the image from Bridge or go to the develop module in Lightroom. Find the camera calibration tab, and in the drop down window select your new profile. Next go to the basic tab and use either the WB slider or the eyedropper WB tool on some green foliage (preferred method) to neutralize the red cast. Now that you have a good base image, you can have fun playing.