Easy Infrared with a Point & Shoot Camera

Infrared photos capture a mix of visible and invisible light creating a unique representation of a scene. The results are often surprising and unexpected. Many infrared images have a dreamy look. In this article I will discuss how to take infrared photos with a point and shoot camera without converting the camera to infrared.

What you need
You need your camera and an infrared filter. I used a Hoya R72 filter. Since most P&S cameras have small lenses you can work with a small filter and they are cheaper. In my case I used a 52mm filter. Most P&S cameras don’t accept filters and some of them need a special adapter. That’s not a problem I just held the filter in front of the lens with my hand. A tripod makes this easier but even handholding the camera it’s easy as both the camera and the filter are really small.

How to Shoot
If your camera supports RAW use it, it makes adjusting the WB easy. If not then take a sample shot using foliage or a white paper as your neutral color and use custom WB. Even without RAW or Custom WB you can be fine for B&W conversions.

Setup is easy as you see in the camera display what you will capture while you hold the filter. Some cameras can be more or less sensitive to infrared but most P&S are much much more sensitive than a DSLR. I could shoot around 1/2 second with a Canon G10 instead of 10 or 20 seconds with my DSLR. Adjust the exposure to make sure the shot is not underexposed as that would create a lot of noise. Keep the ISO low and use a tripod if you need long exposures.

Processing the photos
First of all adjust the white balance using foliage as your neutral color, this will remove the red cast from your image. Without this adjustment the filter makes the shot look completely red. Now you have several options:

- Leave the shot as-is
- Swap the blue & red channels and work in color
- Convert to B&W
- Swap the blue & red channels and work in B&W

To swap the blue and red channels I use Photoshop Image->Adjustments->Channel Mixer. Then for the red channel output I move the red input to 0% and blue input to 100% and for the blue channel output I move blue to 0% and red to 100%. That swaps the blue and red channel making the skies blueish instead of orange/red. The colors are still unreal as they are a combination of visible light and infrared but they look more natural.

Once you are happy with the colors or your B&W conversion make sure to sharpen the image and add contrast and saturation as needed. You are working with invisible light (infrared) so there’s no pressure to represent reality, you can make any artistic decision you like with the photo.

Tips for Best Results
Take advantage of sunny days, when the light is too “bad” for a normal landscape shot it can be great for infrared. Sunlight will make the foliage brighter and more white while also reducing the exposure times you need for the shot.

Try to find scenes with water and trees, foliage, grass and vegetation. Buildings and constructions surrounded by trees are also fantastic scenes for infrared.

If your camera has a low resolution shoot a panorama and stitch it using photoshop, hugin or PtGUI, you will then have a higher resolution infrared photo.

Try it
You only need a P&S camera, a cheap infrared filter and nothing else. All the photos in this article were taken handholding a Hoya R72 52mm filter in front of a Canon G10 camera. The results were really surprising, try to see what happens with your camera.

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  1. Heshan

    interesting post. i haven’t done IR work before, but i’d like to give it a shot some time. however, the Hoya R72 isn’t really cheap – it’s going for around $88 on amazon.com. And i definitely wouldn’t want to put a really rubbish IR filter on there even if its cheaper – quality always comes first, and with filters, cheap ones can screw up quality, as i mentioned in a recent post i did myself on filters

    but thanks for sharing – i just might try it out with my RX100!

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