Saturday, March 29, 2014

Digital Enhancement of Infrared Images

My Before and After post has raised some concerns about the amount of digital enhancement used to create the “After” image below.

Before - out of camera, CNX2

After Image
Ansel Adams, the consummate darkroom specialist said, "You don't take a photograph, you make it."

As an infrared photographer, I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment. In IR photography, all colors are false and the "true" image is invisible to the naked eye.

One of the great things about IR photography is that there is no visual standard for a "right" or "wrong" photograph. Who among us can personally vouch for the accuracy of the visual representation of an invisible spectrum?  We cannot perceive the light that illuminates the scene, the IR reflections, or wavelength (color wheel) interactions. This frees us to take whatever poor approximation of the scene our cameras provide, and make something interesting with it. Some people do this with color, others with black and white. It's all valid.

This concept is liberating for the artist and disconcerting for the technician who wants to create a "perfect" or "natural-looking" IR photograph.

Yes, we can create similar images using a visual camera and digital manipulation, but the public will know the image is “faked” or “Photoshopped,” no matter how interesting the image may be.  By telling the viewer they are looking at an infrared image, the viewer can suspend disbelief and evaluate your image as an image.

Liberating indeed…

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