I read an article on setting white balance in infrared photography today.
I was linked to the article by one of the handful of photography publications I respect and enjoy. This is the first point (and carried throughout the article): “1. Shoot in Monochrome mode. It’s that simple. No white balance needed, everything needed is right there on your LCD screen and you image file in glorious black & white.”
Ok, so instead of taking the cowards way out and cutting out half of the entertaining and wonderful options available to you in infrared photography I have written this article to show you how to actually shoot IR, have all the options under the sun (pun intended) available and still be able to shoot like Scott Bourne of Photofocus and just click “grayscale” if that is what appeals to you.
Firstly, filters. If you have a dslr with some kind of IR filtration built into it, I wouldn’t go for a filter with a longer wavelength cutoff than 720nm, that means Hoya R72 and comparable.
Secondly, custom white balance, my camera lets me shoot a target from which it can define the white balance, green grass is the best as under IR this should come up white. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter too much as we’re shooting IR but a colour temperature around 850K-1200K if you can set it, would be ideal.
Most of us use photoshop or lightroom to edit RAW files. There are others out there, Capture One for example which doesn’t need any extra faffing about for this step. For those of us who like Photoshop and Lightroom, here is an essential step. Both programs are limited (by default) to white balance of 2000K and cooler. Because your white point is a lot warmer than possible at default we need to create a dng profile.
Download the Adobe DNG (not camera) Profile editor from this page (it’s free).
Convert an Infrared file you have shot to DNG using Lightroom.
Open the DNG Profile Editor and click file-open and navigate to your recently created IR DNG.
Click on the “Colour Matrices” tab on the top right.
The second from the bottom slider titled “Temperature” should be slid to somewhere between -80 and -100 depending on your camera’s personal sensitivity to IR.
Click File->Export **** Profile (the **** part will vary from camera to camera)
Save the .dcp (digital camera profile) file in the corresponding location for your particular operating system:
|Mac OS X||/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/CameraProfiles
|Windows 2000 / XP||C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\CameraRaw\CameraProfiles|
|Windows 7||C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\CameraProfiles – obviously, replace YOURUSERNAME with your user name|
Now open Lightroom (if it is already open, close and reopen it) and import (or find in “library”) your IR DNG.
It should look like this:
Even with the temperature at 2000.
But now we go to “Develop” and scroll to the bottom. Under the “Camera Calibration” section there is an option labelled “Profile” Click on whatever is currently next to it, and you should see what you called your .dcp file earlier. Select that option and this is what you should see:
You might be saying “yeah but that looks just as plain as setting it to monochrome a la Scott Bourne” And you’d be right. What we now need to do is our usual editing with a nice lumping of contrast and saturation. You should be able to get something like this with little effort:
Now we’re getting somewhere! If it works for you, you can stop here and maybe even make a preset that applies the profile etc.
For me and many others, the brown skies aren’t that desirable so there is one more step, which requires photoshop. So right click the image in Lightroom and click “Edit in” and “Photoshop CS5″ or “Photoshop Elements” or which ever flavour you own.
In Photoshop click Image->Adjustments->Channel Mixer
What you want to do is change red and blue around. So we select Red from the drop down menu, slide the red slider to 0 and the blue slider to 100. Then select Blue from the drop down menu, slide the blue slider to 0 and the red slider to 100.
there is a little icon next to “Ok” to save the result to a preset, I call mine RB Swap:
From there you can do minor tweaks to colour, if you find it a little cool, go back to Lightroom and cool it down a bit there, that way when you get to photoshop and do the RB Swap it’ll be warmer.
I hope that is more helpful than simply “use monochrome”.