Saturday, June 21, 2014

Alternative Approaches for IR Post-Processing

Out of camera shot with WB established in CNX2.
As I mentioned in previous posts, all colors are false colors when shooting with an infrared converted camera. Therefore, the IR photographer has a lot of latitude to process their images. Sometimes a photographer will develop a certain look that he/she is known for, and they always process to keep their portfolio consistent. Others process images several different ways, depending upon the subject. The final group (which includes me) are either searching for a look that consistently appeals to them or they enjoy doing different things.  It's all good, because there is no right way to process IR photos.

Added white and black points and increased the contrast.
To that end, I plan to show some different approaches to IR processing that may, or may not appeal to you. The building shown in this post is the Upjohn building on the west medical campus of the University of Michigan. The first image is the right out of the camera image that was taken into Nikon CNX2 to set the white balance. 

Half channel swap with desaturated greens.
The second image (above) shows the effect of using a white and black point.  This step removes many of the unexpected colors in the grass and the leaves. I often stop here for many of my IR images. I like the tone-on-tone effect and the sepia colors don't clash or cause problems. This is almost like a half-tone image to my eye

Full channel swap, equalization, and increased saturation.
The third image has the green(ish) sky that is popular with some IR photographers. For this one, I started with image number 2 then performed a half-channel swap. That means that I used the channel mixer and changed the settings for the red channel to red=0 and blue=100%. The resulting image was quite green. To make things easy for myself, I just desaturated the greens to get what you see above.  I was taking the easy route and the sky isn't as green as some photographers would prefer. I set a white point on the cloud to remove any residual green tint. To increase the contrast, I used the Equalize function and toned the photo using the brightness and contrast layer.

Inverted image and added a Nik Bi-Color User Defined filter blue and gold.
The fourth image shows a traditional red-blue channel swap.  I placed a white point setting on the cloud and black point on the reflected light pole. I increased the saturation for this one to give the photo an HDR-like look. 

The last two images are a pair. Once again, I started with image 2 but this time I inverted the image and applied a NIK software filter (Bi-color, user defined) to get the blue and gold (or maize and blue) look.  I increased the contrast and adjusted the brightness to get the image you see here.

Inverting the blue and gold image.
While the blue and gold image is interesting all on its own, the real reason to go this route is because when you invert in again, you get this image. Again, I did a few adjustments but this is basically how it turns out.

I hope this little exercise gives you some additional ideas on post processing looks for infrared images.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Creative Infrared Photography - Shooting Different Subjects

Rest stop near Pindonning Michigan - Infrared
Sometimes I want to create something different with my IR camera. In my experience, landscapes represent the normal starting point for most IR photographers.  IR  landscapes are appealing because they are visually different and yet familiar. Most viewers can connect with the image. I occasionally shoot IR landscapes and this photo is one recent example. This was taken this past weekend during a trip “Up North.” The subject is a rest stop along I-75/US23 between Saginaw and Pinconning. The interesting cloud was in the right place so I took the shot. As with most IR landscapes, white leaves are best when they are set off by some hardscape or water feature. Too much white gets boring. Processing was done as usual for color IR but I set a grey point on the walkway which gave the sky a green tinge. I liked the look so I didn’t mess with it. 

Lilac buds - Infrared
The next stop on the road to something different is this macro shot of lilac buds. The lilac blooms are done here in Southeast Michigan but they were just starting to open in the North Country. This image was captured with a Nikon D90 with a 720 nm standard IR conversion. I used the LifePixel white balance preset and deliberately underexposed the shot.  This photo is very close to the out-of-camera image. I adjusted the contrast and the levels and decreased the brightness a little but this is it. What makes this image different is the burgundy background and the green lilac buds.  The combination doesn't scream IR when you look at it. When shooting flowers, I often use a diffuser or a fill flash to even out the lighting.  In this case, I embraced the uneven lighting because it appeared more natural to me.

Steering wheel emblem - Infrared
The farthest departure from a “normal” IR photograph is this emblem from my steering wheel. It reminds me of a hot branding iron. The texture in the leather provides an interesting offset. This was taken with the LifePixel preset and the details were brought out using NIK Software’s  Detail Extractor and the Dark Contrasts filter.

I hope this will inspire you to try something different too.