Why not try your hand at using infra red film?

After having posted a simple guide just yesterday on how to get the film noir effect into your photos, here’s something you may not have heard before….using infra red film, and just as interesting.

Infra red is that part of the frequency wave band which contains the light we photographers use, as well as all those beautiful colours of the rainbow. Think back to the electric heaters we used to use in the old days, with a bright red bar glowing inside them…that heat those heaters gave off is infra-red radiation.

And that same kind of radiation is what infra-red film is able to capture, as well as ultraviolet and the normal visible light we see.

What kind of effects can you get with this film? First, let’s understand exactly what an infra-red film will “see” when we use it in our camera. It will see infra-red light that is reflected off our subject, whatever that subject may be, be it a person, a tree, or a scene.

So if we take a typical photo that contains water, trees or foliage and sky as the main parts, we will typically get the water and sky looking dark and ominous, while the trees or foliage will look almost white.

These effects can be so pronounced, that infra-red film has become the choice for many professional fine art photographers all over the world.

Now a word about how to prepare your film camera for infra-red film use. This only applies to those film cameras that have a little red window or slit at the back designed to show the user what type of film he/she has inside. Unfortunately, although these film windows are ok when using normal films, with infra-red film, they will let in infra-red light which will destroy your film!

The way to overcome that is to cut a small piece of cooking foil, the same size as the window or slot, place it over the window and tape it down properly and securely with black insulating tape. That will seal off the thing from stray infra-red and you’re good to go.

Another problem can crop up when using Canon film cameras. Unfortunately, most Canon cameras used a beam of infra-red light to judge what frame number the user is shooting, so very obviously that would expose the whole of your infra-red film within seconds! So Canon cameras + infra-red film= No!

Loading the film into your camera also has to be done carefully, as it is sensitive to light, more so than normal film. I have always used a good changing bag, which ensures the film gets loaded in absolute darkness.

Focussing is another topic that you need to be careful about. With infra-red, you will use special infra-red hyperfocal marks on already in place on your camera lens (these are usually marked in red).

To enhance the surreal effect of the film, you can also use filters. Go ahead and use a normal red filter you’d use with monochrome film, but even better would be to use a special infra-red filter such as a Hoya R72.

Processing is as normal; either take your film to your local lab, mentioning to them that it is an infra-red film, or process it yourself, being extra careful when loading the film into your developing tank etc.

Have fun!


all photos courtesy http://www.flickr.com




About filmcamera999

ME & MY PASSION! ok, you probably looked at the length of this "about me" page and thought, god, what's wrong with this guy!....does he have to start telling us his life story or something!!? well, youve come here now anyways, so why not hear what im like as a person, eh? ive been using film cameras for well over 30 years...my first one being the family yashicamat twin lens! over the years, ive both bought sold and collected film cameras...too many to tell the truth! in fact, ive been buying and selling cameras well before the internet came on the scene, so anything you purchase from me is backed by my self-styled moneyback promise.....if you dont like what youve bought, send it back within 14 days and you get all your money back...no arguments!! WHERE I STAND ON THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION! yes, i do use digital as well, but only as a ready-reckoner...i try and take most shots with my simple 2megapixel digicam....if the shot looks good, i pull out my film camera and shoot! i most defintely do not believe in digital manipulation of photographs....that in my eyes is not photography...its cheating! WHERE I USED TO LIVE, WHERE I AM NOW & WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO! i used to live in Ontario, Canada, but moved back to the UK a little while ago (its a long story..!)...but now i'm living in the one place i always wanted to be...Vancouver, BC..the next best thing to paradise on earth! as i work as a freelance writer as well as other things, i often find hat my work takes me to europe for short spells, so i get to travel a lot...not a blessing, as i just hate long flights! im a qualified Quality Assurance guy (you know...ISO 9000, auditing, documentation etc) ....99% of my skill-set is transferable so i can handle any admin or documentation-related roles....see you in BC! otherwise, i specialise in ISO 9000 auditing and documentation. my dream? to have my own thriving camera shop in Vancouver BC, whilst living in the mountains somewhere.....the best of both worlds!
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4 Responses to Why not try your hand at using infra red film?

  1. pjbrez says:

    Nice post here. I love shooting infrared, both color and black and white, and I’ve uploaded quite a few IR shots on my site. There’s nothing quite like infrared – it’s look and feel is utterly unique. Also, it’s not just Canon cameras that have that infrared light inside them. Many modern film SLRs have a bar-code scanner inside that will scan the film, set the ISO, and automatically rewind the film when every frame has been shot. Yet, there should be no problem if one uses older film SLRs when shooting IR. Personally, I’ve used a Canon AE-1, a Holga, and a Rolleiflex Automat A. All have worked perfectly for me. The only one I had to tape up securely was the Holga. Aside from that, I loaded the film carefully, and was very a little extra careful when developing in the darkroom. I think it’s a misconception that infrared is hard to shoot. On the contrary, it’s not too great of a challenge and I feel everyone should give it a go. Thanks again for posting this!

    • good to have your input on this!
      yes, i agree, not all Canon cameras have that problem with infra red sensing….its only the newer versions that have electronics in them…the AE1 has no problem with IF film.
      i could have added a lot more info on my article, but as you know, we never really know who will be reading your posts…it could be an absolute beginner, and the worst we can do is blow his/her brains out with techie info which will put them off using film forever! thanks for reading, and i enjoy visiting your site, too!

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