Working with Digital Infrared Images in Black & White…and Color

by | Aug 12, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Whenever I write a post about infrared photography I get questions. The most common one is that the reader’s JPEG or RAW files always seem have some color tint to them; it could be blue or it could be magenta. So they ask: How do I get black and white tones in my photographs? 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 a park or whatever. 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 DSLR or mirrorless camera you use, it’s easy. But keep in mind that whether you use an IR filter on your camera or have it converted for infrared capture sometime the results may still have a slight color shift.

Second, you can shoot the photograph in 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. It has all the scoop you need on the subject. 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. There is no charge for this.

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, sometimes using Adobe Camera Raw to tweak the image using the Clarity and Vibrance sliders. Then I use Silver Efex Pro to convert the file to black and white.

For some tips on how I created the hand colored version of the above photograph, check out my post Hand Coloring a Porsche Speedster. The same technique works for any kind of car and any marque.

Life Pixel does a great job with IR conversions and they have done most of the conversions for my Canon DSLRs and all of my Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras.

My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography, is currently out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon for $14.98, as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a nice chapter on infrared photography and is available from Amazon with used copies selling at giveaway—less than four bucks—prices.