Infrared photography

When I first started getting into photography a couple of years ago, I wanted to have a go at everything. I bought the cheapest infrared (IR) filter I could find on eBay and was delighted to find that my then camera, a Fuji S9600, was slightly sensitive to very deep red, and IR. I don’t think it was supposed to be, but it enabled me to take IR photos of outdoor scenes, and very hot objects, such as this light bulb.

When I traded in the S9600 for a Canon 450D, I was slightly disappointed to find that it wasn’t at all sensitive to the same range of IR and/or deep red. There are companies that will do an IR conversion, which involves taking the camera apart and removing its internal IR filter. It’s expensive, and it’s pretty much a one-way conversion.

Then I realised there was a cheap and practical alternative that had been staring me in the face the whole time. My 35mm SLR.

IR film is several times more expensive than regular film, but still vastly cheaper than digital IR photography. I bought a roll of Ilford SFX200 and it was about £8.

I read about how to correctly expose IR film and frankly it sounds confusing. Lots of people recommend using a light meter, but then you have to take into account the filter which is present on the camera but not on the light meter. It’s anybody’s guess how many stops you need to compensate for the IR filter.

It’s also a shot in the dark (no pun intended!) as to the ratio of visible light to invisible IR light. This varies with the time of day, what the light is falling upon, and about a million other things.

I wanted to shoot one or two frames, see the results, and then make sure I was doing it properly before shooting a whole film. Unfortunately that’s not easily possible, so I’m just going ahead and shooting a whole 36-exposure roll. As I write, I’m about halfway through the film.

The good news is that my Canon AE-1’s light meter appears to be sensitive to IR light. That is, with the IR filter on, the internal meter appears to work properly so I can simply use the camera as normal. I verified this with a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation to compare the meter’s behaviour with and without the IR filter. It seems about right.

So here’s hoping that this fantastic little camera will produce me 36 interesting IR photos. We will see – watch this space!

One Comment

  1. […] while ago I shot some pseudo-infrared film: Ilford SFX 200. Unfortunately, being the impatient 6 year old that I really am, I didn’t […]

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