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Photographing with Infrared Filters

Filters are an easy way of transforming your images, and you can easily screw them onto the end of your lens to limit the amount and type of light that penetrates it. One interesting niche of photography is infrared (IR), which captures only light in the IR end of the spectrum. Landscape photographers utilize it to create highly contrasted and unique images. While digital cameras can be converted to IR, filters are also available when you want to experiment in the style.

What Is an Infrared Filter?

An infrared filter allows infrared wavelengths to pass through it while blocking others from entering the lens. IR filters are compatible with different diameter lenses, such as the Hoya 58mm lens, and you can easily screw them onto the end of the lens when required and remove them in the same way.

  • The eyes can only see wavelengths between 400nm and 700nm, referred to as "visible light," while infrared photography uses wavelengths between 700nm and 900nm that the human eye cannot see.
  • An IR filter works by blocking light with wavelengths less than 720nm from entering the lens.

What Are the Effects of Photographing with an Infrared Filter?

Images shot with IR filters often have a surreal and otherworldly look with green foliage and clouds appearing as striking white against the darkness behind them. It's this unique aesthetic that is the appeal of these filters, and the ability to document a scene in a way it hasn't been captured before.

  • The appearance of foliage as white under infrared light is known as the wood effect and results from the reflective qualities of chlorophyll in the leaves of the plants.
  • Because these filters are completely black, you need to use a tripod when shooting and compose or focus the image before you screw the filter onto the end of the lens as you won't be able to see once it is on.

What Should You Look for When Buying an Infrared Filter?

The first thing to consider before buying an infrared filter is whether your digital camera has the ability to capture infrared light as not all cameras have this capability.

  • There are two types of infrared filters available: screw-in circular filters, such as the Hoya 58mm, and square filters that just slot in and out. A screw-in filter is less likely to encounter light leaks, which can easily ruin your shot.
  • While 720nm is the standard for filters designed for infrared photography, you can also find 900nm models when you want to experiment further.