Infrared Photography, Part 4

  By RonMay

Black and White Image Processing
Only 590nm, 630nm and 720nm images can be converted to black and white, as the 830nm images are already black and white. The conversion of an IR image to black and white can be done anywhere in the “colour processing” work flow. While I have tried this conversion from the initial image that has gone through camera profile conversion In Lightroom as well as a false colour image produced from a channel swap and other adjustments in Photoshop, I much prefer starting with a false colour image. This gives me more freedom to deal with the individual false colours compared to those seen in a simple initial converted image. Good black and white images have a broad tonal range and good, deep blacks, which I find can be produced much better from a false colour image.

The workflow for converting a false colour image to black and white is very similar to that for a regular colour image. There are a number of software products to choose from including Lightroom, Photoshop, Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, Topaz B&W Effects, and On1 Photo Raw. I would encourage you to experiment with whatever products you have at your disposal. Be aware that what may work in one situation may not produce acceptable results for you, as an artist, in other situations.

The first image here is a false colour image of an old settlement cabin and the second image is its rendering in black and white using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. In the conversion, I used the blue filter to darken the sky to make the clouds stand out. The third image is an IR image that has been converted using a camera profile and the fourth is a black and white conversion of the same image using SEP2. There is not much difference between the two black and white conversions in the way the sky was rendered.

Thoughts on Composition
The “rules” and elements of composition for IR images are very similar to those for standard colour images, however, you must consider how the false colours affect your composition and how it changes the appearance of components within your image. Placement of objects using the “rule of thirds” does not change in IR images, nor does the use of lines and curves to draw the viewer’s eye through the image, unless these are influenced by the false colours in the image. However, the colour and texture of patterns may change based on their reflection of IR light in the scene. They may not contribute the same “essence” to the image that they did in regular situations.

Subjects for Infrared Photography
Just about any subject that can be captured using a standard camera, can be captured using IR photography. Landscapes are my favourite (as in the first image), particularly, when the post-processing involves a channel swap and other adjustments, giving a nice blue sky and golden foliage. Subjects such as flowers, water, standing or running, and people are but a few of those captured by IR photographers. You can even take IR images in winter as shown in the final image of this post.

Closing Thoughts
This series of four articles has been intended as a very brief over view of IR photography. Being able to see images in the “unseen” light has opened up a new world of photography for me because the idea of taking images of the unseen appeals to me as an artist. For those interested in a bit more detail, I leave you with this sequence of relevant websites.

This is the fourth and final article in a series on infrared photography. You can read the first article here, the second article here, and the third article here.