The above unprocessed photograph is how one of my files looked directly from the infrared-converted SLR that captured it. To see what the final, processed image looks like, check below:
As they used to sing on the old Perry Como TV show, “letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters…” Nowadays I get e-mail and some of them are from photographers just beginning to dip their toes into the water of infrared photography. Lately one of those questions that keeps popping is “How do I set a custom white balance for infrared?” Now, some of the people who do conversions such as LifePixel (www.lifepixel.com) and the IR Guy (http://irdigital.net/) return the converted camera with a custom white balance setting already in place but as you can see by the above image, it’s now what you expected.
And what about shooters using non-converted cameras with the awesome and inexpensive Hoya R72 filters. Here’s my advice paraphrased from a classic movie: “White balance, we don’t need no stinkin’ white balance.” Now while some purists and IR gurus may vehemently disagree with me about this because I am breaking one their cast iron principles, my goal with all my photography—infrared included—is to have fun. If I wanted to frustrated with a hobby, I would take up golf. So here are a few tips or having fun with IR photography:
1. 1. Shoot in Monochrome mode. It’s that simple. No white balance needed, everything needed is right there on your LCD screen and you image file in glorious black & white.
2. 2. If the thought of shooting JPEG is anathema to you, the RAW images captured are going to exhibit a strong magenta cast as in the above photograph. Here’s what I do to solve that problem: I open the file in Adobe Camera Raw, ignore the White Balance pop-up menu, navigate to the HSL/Grayscale tab, and click the Convert to Grayscale button. Bob’s your uncle. You can then tweak ago using any of the settings under the Basic tab.
3. 3. Alternative approach: If you are shooting a bracketed series of images (always good idea when capturing IR) why not double-down and open the files using Nik HDR Efex Pro and create a digital infrared HDR image. Many times the preview thumbnails will show the image automatically converted to monochrome but you can always use the several B&W presets Nik provides or pick another that you like and move the saturation slider to zero.
And so what’s the common thread though all of these tips? I didn’t worry about the White Balance setting one time. Have fun with your photograph!
Joe is the author of “The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography” (http://amzn.to/ecM6ZV) published by Lark Books.
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