Converting Your Camera to Infrared

By Geoff Harris

Infra-red monochrome photos from Lordenshaws near Rothbury looking toward Great Tosson, Northumberland, England

Your DSLR is a wonder of precision engineering, developed by serious-minded people who strive for excellence. Few people realise but the manufactures go to great length to eliminate Infrared light as you camera sensor is actually very sensitive to that wavelength.

Infrared is a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum invisible to humans. Ordinarily it's invisible to digital cameras too. However, it's possible to modify a digital camera to record this light by removing the IR filter from the front of the sensor. This needs to be done professionally by someone who knows what they're doing (it's not the sort of thing you want to try at home). Once the surgery has been performed on your camera you'll be able to shoot infrared images.

Infra-red monochrome photos from Lordenshaws near Rothbury looking toward Great Tosson, Northumberland, England

You need strong sunlight to shoot infrared effectively, making it a technique best left to summer rather than winter.

Why would you want too? Infrared photography has a unique style unlike any other form of photography. It only really works in bright sunshine. When it does green foliage turns almost snow white and blue skies darken virtually to black. It's a look you either love or hate (though that's arguably better than producing images that generate no feeling at all). Having your camera's sensor modified will cost you and is irreversible without incurring yet more expense (try in the US and in the Europe).


This image was taken at the Empire Mine in California

It's often cheaper to buy a camera that's already been modified second-hand (which will save your main camera for everyday photography). Another (if marginally less effective – and they don't work on every camera) way to experiment with infrared photography is to fit an infrared filter to your lens such as the Hoya R72.

Hoya R72 77mmHoya R72 72mmHoya R72 58mmHoya R72 52mm

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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