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Ian McKenzie

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Quite a few years ago I remember seeing an exhibition of framed infra-red prints. The talented photographer involved had taken a variety of shots which included landscapes and some old buildings. This exhibition was viewed well before digital cameras were available for purchase. The original photographs having been taken with a film camera into which special infra-red film had been placed instead of regular film.

Some time following seeing these surreal framed photographs I visited my favourite photographic goods supply store to find out more regarding the process of producing infra-red prints. Whether it was the cost of the special film and chemicals involved, or whether it involved complicated processing, I can not recall. But I did decide not to pursue infra-red photography any further at that time.

Digital cameras capture images on a sensor in the camera, whereas film cameras capture the image on the negative. Sensors in regular digital cameras are designed to filter out most light which is not in the visible light spectrum, including infra-red light. On most cameras some infra-red wavelength of light still comes through to the sensor. The amount will vary with the make and model of the camera.

Infra-red filters are available to place on the lenses of regular cameras. These filters filter out the visible light and allow just the infra-red and near infra-red wavelengths to come through to the camera sensor. Because visible light is filtered out, these shots will need exceptionally long exposure times. So, a tripod must be used and this mode of photography is only suitable for buildings and landscapes where there will be no movement.

Colours in infra-red photographs will change dramatically from those viewed in visible light. Blue skies will appear almost black, whereas clouds will be white or a greyish white. The chlorophyl in leaves and grass will appear almost white. The more chlorophyl in the plants, that is the greener they appear, the whiter they will be in infra-red photographs. This is because infra-red radiation is actually emitted from the plants. Clothing will change colour depending partly upon the fabric from which it is made. Skin takes on an almost translucent look. It is as if we are almost looking through the first few layers of skin.

As I have mentioned already, digital camera sensors are designed to filter out most radiation except for visible light. A few years ago some firms converted cameras by changing the sensors to filter out most of the visible light and only allow infra-red and near infra-red light rays to come through to the sensors of these cameras.

These cameras did not need the exceptionally long exposure times that regular cameras with infra-red filters attached needed. They could therefore be used for photographing people as well as buildings and landscapes. The downside for these cameras is that they could no longer be used for regular photography.

One of my cameras is a Nikon which has had its sensor converted to be sensitive to the infra-red and near infra-red wavelengths. The photos taken with this camera I generally convert to Black and White. Usually on those of buildings and landscapes I also perform some further digital manipulations or enhancements.

Below are some photos taken with my infra-red converted camera. The first is a view of Brisbane city taken from the top of the Kangaroo Point cliffs. The very dark part of the sky is actually the blue sky. The whiter or lighter parts are clouds. Notice the whitish appearance of most of the foreground vegetation.

The remainder of the photos on this page are of Mary. In the picture of Mary with the carpet snake, Mary was wearing a black leather jacket and dark jeans. In the infra-red photo the jeans remain dark, but the leather jacket has a much lighter appearance. You will notice that in all the shots of Mary that her skin has a translucent look about it.

These photos and hundreds of other infra-red photos are available for viewing and purchase by clicking on the infra-red tab on the 21c Stock Photos site.


Mary IR 05
Mary IR 43
Mary IR 10
Mary IR 35
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