digital infra-red black & white photography

digital infra-red B&W photography

The ghostly beautiful infra-red B&W landscapes have always drawn me. Something ethereal and other-wordly about them. So I’m not sure why it took me this long to pull the trigger on getting an infra-red converted digital camera. But I end up buying a used Canon 5D mark II that had been converted to infra-red. The conversion was been done by life pixel, adding a Deep B&W Infra-Red filter. They also adjusted the camera for ‘universal lens calibration’ to help with the focusing accuracy of the infra-red light.

Today was the first time I took the camera out for a proper spin, but instead of seeking out landscapes, I ventured in to Manhattan, to see what it looks like … and I’m blown away. I love this. I love this effect more than I had anticipated.

Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/25  @  f/8  @  1600 ISO

Here I purposely kept to a slow shutter speed to blur the movement. That ghostly figure right in the front is a cyclist. One of the first things I discovered – the camera’s light-meter has no correlation to what is going to happen with exposure. In the end, the exposure was anywhere from 2 to 5 stops more than the meter would indicate. This is especially true for the shadow side of a building.

In the end, I found Live View mode to be the most helpful in getting to the right exposure. I kept the blinking highlights ON as well.


Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/250  @  f/5.6  @  800 ISO

Street photography, as infra-red, just has a slightly more surreal element to it.


Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/200  @  f/6.3  @  400 ISO

This policeman in Times Square very gracefully allowed me to take his photograph. And really, he was friendly and not as formidable as he looks. I was fascinated that his dark blue uniform would appear as this white tone, due to all the infra-red light reflected.

Even as a newbie to infra-red B&W, I’m already convinced that you can’t really emulate this look via Photoshop filters. Just taking changing the various tones around – eg, green tones to be very bright levels, and brightening red tones, and darkening blue tones – can’t effectively give you these kind of infra-red surprises.


Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/400  @  f/5.6  @  1600 ISO

What fascinated me here, is how the sun’s reflections from the various buildings, and the corresponding shadows areas, created these pools of light. This was one of the images I shot in Aperture Priority, with the EV set to +2. It’s pretty close when the light is bright.


Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/400  @  f/6.3  @  800 ISO

Back to this image that was shown at the top – the guy with the balloon is Israel, and he was also very gracious and worked with me until we got the balloon just right in the frame. Thank you for helping!

I must say that I am pretty excited showing these few initial images – it feels like there’s a whole new strange world awaiting.


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5 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. Graham Wood says


    I have a converted D100 and on that the meter was fairly usable. BUT you have to get the white balance right. Its a long time now since I did this. I think I did a custome white balance on some grass. It is way weird. Low temerature and skewed colours – as one might expect – but the meter became meaningfull.

    There was an article from “digilloyd” which was very usefull.


  2. Jamie Emerson says

    Great to see a different application for IR photography – these are fantastic! As you may have noticed, I immediately ran out to the nearest graveyard with my IR converted D70. Not cliched at all.

    I’m currently using the flashing highlights feature to get the exposures close to alright – just keep cranking it up until I get my first few blinkies. But wild bracketing is still the order of the day – if my histogram looks good (exposed to the right etc), my images are massively underexposed. Depending on the quality / direction of light / mood of my dog.

  3. Libby says

    Nice to see you’ve come over to the dark side Neil ;-) I shoot with a full spectrum camera, the best of all worlds and the ultimate vacation camera. When shooting straight full spectrum with no add on filters, you can get great B&W and get tonal range I never had before. Here’s an example

  4. plonker says


    I have always wanted to try IR photography with film. I have tried with a little success within photoshop.

    I’m wondering if an HDR programme could add a little to the effect. Has anybody tried?

    Great images Neil.


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