Create Faux-Infrared Images - 6/9/08
Get infrared film effects from digital shots with a few image-editing tricks
Not everything in the digital era is better than the film equivalent. Think of black-and-white infrared film, for example. This analog process created totally unique results that were as much fun for the great photos they created as for the surprises they delivered along the way. When you clicked the shutter, you never knew exactly what you were going to get.
Though the surprise isn't quite the same, you can actually create similar infrared effects in the computer. True infrared film records light that's invisible to the human eye-in the reddest region of the light spectrum. Similar in-camera effects can sometimes be created digitally (depending on a particular CCD's sensitivity to near-infrared light, or whether you've had it converted to a true IR sensor), but why not skip the in-camera filtration techniques and turn any image into infrared after you've got it in the computer?
I think the process works best-much like authentic infrared-on landscape and nature photographs. Don't hesitate to experiment with a variety of subjects and exposures though.
1. The first step is to turn a color image into black-and-white, and skewed toward the extra-red end of the spectrum. Using Photoshop's Channel Mixer, check the Monochrome option and drag the red channel lighter-toward +200-and the blue channel slider darker-toward -100. Strike a happy balance between pseudo infrared and complete blocking of highlights and shadow detail. Maintain the detail now, and you can make it look more infrared in the coming steps.
2. To create the grainy look of infrared film, choose Add Noise from the Filter menu, keeping it uniform and monochrome. Adjust the slider until you're happy with the amount of grain-personal preference means there's no right answer-and you're almost finished.
3. The faux infrared already looks pretty good, but one thing is still missing: the hazy glow that's omnipresent in infrared film photography. Take your shot from good to great by duplicating the image layer and choosing Distort > Diffuse Glow from the Filter menu. Adjust the inputs to apply the blurry glow to mostly middle and dark tones.
4. After completing the filtration, invert the layer to make those glowing darker tones into glowing bright ones. Apply a bit more Gaussian Blur to the layer to increase the surreality of the image before finally adjusting the attributes to Overlay in the layers palette. You can adjust the strength of the glow by tweaking the layer's opacity, but 100% could be pretty close. It may not make a true infrared image, but this digital fake sure looks great.