Mirrorless Infrared Photography of Cars

by | May 26, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Whenever I write about infrared photography I get lots of questions from readers. The most common one is that when they try shooting infrared, their JPEG or RAW files always seem have some color tint to them; sometimes it’s blue or it could be magenta. So they ask: How do I get the kind of black and white tones in my photographs like you do? The good news is that’s accomplishing this goal is not difficult and you have three possible options:

First, if you want to do it in camera, you should run outside and set a custom white balance by making a photograph of the grass on your lawn or at a park. Select Custom WB from your camera’s menu, which lets you pick your test image, then click OK. To see how this process works you may have to read your camera’s User’s Guide but it’s just a matter of making a photograph, pulling a few menus and pressing a button. No matter what kind of mirrorless camera you use, it’s easy. Keep in mind that whether you use an IR filter on your camera or have it converted for infrared capture sometimes the results may still have a slight color shift.

Second, you can shoot photographs using your camera’s Monochrome mode. You can find all the details and my philosophy on this approach in a post of my main blog entitled Understanding White Balance and IR Photography. And as is the case with any of these options, you can always click the Contact button atop this page and ask a me a question.

How I made this shot: Whenever you photograph a McLaren at Cars and Coffee there’s always a crowd and this car was no exception. I used a Panasonic Lumix G5 that was converted for infrared capture by LifePixel. Lens was a Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 at 12mm, with an Av exposure of 1/200 sec at f/11 and ISO 400. It was converted to black and white with Silver Efex Pro, with a sprinkling of Color Efex Pro to add some infrared glow.

Third, if you want to do it in the digital darkroom, here’s another way. Capturing images in RAW format lets you maximize imaging quality but I hedge my bets by shooting in RAW+JPEG, with the camera set in Monochrome mode. This gives me a preview of what the image will look like in black & white that I will use later in Adobe Bridge to select the RAW image to work with. Then I open the RAW file, often using Adobe Camera Raw to tweak the image with the Clarity and Vibrance sliders. Then I use Silver Efex Pro to convert the file to black and white as I did in the above image.

Life Pixel does a great job with IR conversions and have done most of the conversions for my Canon DSLRs and all of my Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras. This is not a paid or sponsored endorsement, just my experience.

New copies of my book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography are currently available for $25.00 with used copies from Amazon starting at $15.44 as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon for $37.90 with used copies starting around two bucks, less than your next coffee at a Starbucks drive-through.