Shooting Infared and extended red film - A guide (2022)

Shooting Infrared film

Infrared photography has always been a unique and niche art form, allowing a photographer to capture images seemingly from another dimension. I say niche because capturing that "perfect" image requires a different approach to pre-visualizing your scene, anunderstanding of the limitations of infrared and the ability to adjust your settings effectively for changing conditions. For these reasons many photographers are reluctant to give IR film a try. This article will not onlydemonstrate the benefits of learning the discipline of Infrared film photography but alsoshow that even a first timer like myself can get outstanding results by following a few basic principles.

Shooting Infared and extended red film - A guide (1)

Westridge Park - Davie Florida ©Aloy Anderson

The Art Of Infrared

The Unique beauty of IR comes from being able to compose the same scenes you would with natural light but now capturing them with a new mood and feel. Some compare IR images to visions from a dream although wide awake. You begin to notice unusual things such as flowers having patterns that aren't normally visible, the way some foliage reflects more IR than others or how the ominously dark sky contrasts the white puffy clouds, clouds with an unmistakable texture and grain that only film can produce. Yes Infrared is a challenge but it provides the unique opportunity to create images that set your work apart from the masses.

Shooting Infared and extended red film - A guide (2)

Everglades Holiday Park - Florida ©Aloy Anderson

(Video) The Incomplete Guide to Rollei Infrared 400

The Basics

Because infrared light is invisible to the human eye, to capture it on an IR sensitive film like Ilford SFX we need a filter to block out visible light but allow the IR to pass through to the film plane. Filters come in different strengths, for example the weakest, a 550 nanometer allows the most visible light through to give the least drastic effect while allowing higher shutter speeds.

The 720nm is the standard general purpose filter of choice, It allows some visible light to pass through while still rendering good contrast between bright foliage and darker skies. This is the recommendation for beginners just starting out and the one I used for all the photos in his article.

Finally the strongest filter, an 850nm lets in practically no visible light, because of this it renders green vegetation a stark white and blue skies an inky black. The trade off is it requires much longer exposures which creates its own challenges such as blurry trees or water blowing in the wind, sometimes this can be used as an advantage though to magnify that surreal look.

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Chapel Trail Nature Preserve - Pembroke Pines, Florida ©Aloy Anderson

Tools of the trade

Almost any camera with full manual controls will work for IR but there are a few features it needs to have.

  1. A filter thread- To attach your filter.
  2. The ability to do long exposures- Most cameras have at least a 1 second shutter but for those technical long exposures make sure the cam has a threaded cable release feature.
  3. A tripod- Even on sunny days your exposure can be a second or more, way too long to handhold.
  4. Self timer- While not mandatory its good backup for those times you forget the cable release, allowing you to trigger the shutter without touching the cam and causing motion blur.
  5. A rapid filter system- Also not mandatory but more on this later.
  6. An Infrared film- I must point out that Ilford SFX is considered a near infrared film having "extended red sensitivity" meaning it is on the edges of the strongest part of the infrared spectrum.

Shooting Infared and extended red film - A guide (4)

(Video) How to Shoot Rollei Infrared Film - "Invisible Light"

New River Canal - Davie Florida ©Aloy Anderson

Accurate exposure

As technologically advanced as photography gear has become its important to note there is still no such thing as an infrared light meter, this is not a huge problem because infrared comes from sunlight and best results are made on sunny days so here is the key. Just as traditional photography has the sunny 16 rule (to judge correct exposure without a meter) In my preliminary research I found that Infrared also has a baseline setting for sunny conditions, with a 720nm filter set your shutter to 1 second and aperture to f/8. most shooters will bracket from there, for example they may take one slower shot at 2 seconds and one faster at 1/2 second to account for natural IR fluctuations.

I have to mention that I am shooting a medium format Mamiya M645 which is limited to 16 frames so I chose not to bracket in order to get the most of my rolls. Maybe that was a cocky gamble but of of the 48 images I shot only 3 came out a bit underexposed though still usable. That high keeper rate came from mainly shooting in sunny conditions and avoiding overcast days which would require guesstimating exposure and give poor/bland IR results.

Accurate focus

Another interesting behavior of infrared light is it doesn't focus on the same plane as visible light, it focuses slightly in front, this is called "infrared focus shift." This is easy to correct because most older manual lenses have a red infrared mark on the depth of field scale, once you achieve visible light focus you note that point and turn it to the infrared mark. For example when normal focus is 3 metres on my 55mm Sekor lens turning it to the infrared mark sets IR focus slightly closer at 2.5 metres. Interestingly f/8 has such deep depth of field that you may not notice much difference if you forget the adjustment especially with landscapes. Due to this attention to critical focus my images came out incredibly sharp and in the sweet spot of the lens.

Here is a potential problem and fix, IR filters are so dark that if you're using an SLR you wont be able to see through the lens to focus and compose with the filter in place. Imagine screwing the filter on and off 36 times per roll, not only would that be slow and tedious but you would fill it with fingerprints and potentially drop it. I recommend using some sort of rapid filter system with a hinge allowing you to swing the filter out the way to focus and quickly swing it back to take the shot, Im using a Uurig model with 58mm filter thread.

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Treetops Park - Davie Florida ©Aloy Anderson

(Video) Infrared Film Photography Tutorial featuring Ilford SFX


Now that you've tried Infrared and seen your beautiful results don't hesitate to bend some of the "rules" in your experimenting. Maybe try shooting architecture instead of landscapes, does the darker skies enhance or detract? If you're looking for a spooky sci-fi effect try shooting people, you'll get a look that can't be duplicated in Photoshop for sure. How does it look when you shoot less than sunny conditions? Finally without a filter Ilford SFX behaves like a regular BW film, I shot a few images this way and it renders perfectly normal as well.

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Church in Miami Shores Florida ©Aloy Anderson

On your marks

Now that we know the basics the only thing left to do is execute. As you look for scenes to photograph, Keep in mind green vegetation, blue skies and human skin is what IR acts upon so pre-visualize your composition while preparing the shot. But wait, conditions are always changing, did that cloud just block the sun? Will you wait for it to pass or choose to adjust the aperture/shutter a few stops? The wind speed just increased, do you mind the palm trees being blurred for this one second exposure? You discover a forest with sun peaking through the canopy that you want to challenge yourself to capture but how do you go about guesstimating exposure for lower light conditions like this?

These are some of the challenges you will face but your growing experience and intuition will be your guide. There's a satisfaction that comes from looking at your framed print hanging and knowing that you carefully made that image without the help of automatic aids. It will no doubt grow in you the confidence to tackle other advanced disciplines of photography.

To watch this explained in a video and see some more great images check out

About The Author

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Aloy Anderson

My film photography journey started in 1985 at the age of 13 when I bought my first SLR, a Chinon CM-5 (which I still own) and taught myself the basics. As an adult I migrated to digital andhad no intentions of shooting film again untilmy stepson on moving out gifted me a vintage Yashica point and shoot. I reluctantly bought some drugstore film to run through it and on getting the scans back I realized I had forgotten what film texture and grain was all about, this was all it took to hook me all over again. I currently live in South Florida and run a YouTube channel primarily focused on photography and video, I find it a great outlet to keep my creative momentum and share my work.


(Video) Shooting Rollei Infrared film.

Instagram: @aloyandersonphotography



When should you shoot infrared film? ›

Shoot ONLY in Sunlight

The infrared film needs IR light and sunlight is the best source of IR light. Low sun (morning or late afternoon) has much higher infrared radiation.

Can you shoot infrared film without a filter? ›

If you don't use a filter when shooting infrared film, the film will look flat and monotone. Each filter has a color and number associated with it. The redder and darker the filter, the more visible light it blocks.

Why are my infrared photos red? ›

Depending on your infrared filter choice, the automatic white balance feature of your camera may no longer work as expected. So on your camera display, the pictures will show up with a strong red cast.

Does infrared affect film? ›

Infrared cinematography opens up a whole new spectrum of light not visible to the unaided eye. This has the potential to give otherwise ordinary scenes a surreal and dream-like appearance and can really change the look of the images.

Can you shoot infrared film at night? ›

Photographers most often shoot infrared during sunny days to catch the maximum infrared light from the sun. However, the sun is not the only source of infrared light, and it is also possible to practice infrared photography at night within several parameters.

Is it better to over or underexpose film? ›

It's personal preference. If you like washed out soft colours then overexpose. If you like a gritty, muddy look then underexpose. But keep in mind that negative film holds more information in overexposure than underexposure hence manages to do better when overexposed.

Does aluminum foil block infrared cameras? ›

5. Can thermal imaging see through aluminium foil? ​The answer is NO. Any electrically conductive material will block infrared radiation.

Does infrared bounce off glass? ›

Infrared light and visible light interact with materials in different ways. Near-infrared light passes through clear glass and will reflect off metal surfaces, including mirrors.

Does glass block infrared camera? ›

Fun fact: glass acts like a mirror for infrared radiation. If you point a thermal imager at a window, you won't see anything on the other side of the glass, but you will get a nice reflection of yourself in thermal.

Why are my film photos red? ›

The most common occurrence of light leaks is at the very beginning of the roll. Sometimes light can slowly “pipe” in past the felt on the film canister and cause red stripes on the first image or two, or along the edges of 120 roll film when wound too loosely.

Why do cameras struggle with red? ›

Loss of detail in red objects is a common problem in digital photographs. Digital cameras' sensors are more sensitive to the red color channel than the other two (blue and green), and meanwhile overexposure of the red channel can lead to the loss of detail in red objects.

Why does infrared mean below red? ›

The word infrared means below red. It comes from the Latin word infra (meaning below) and the English word red. (Infrared light has a frequency below the frequency of red light.)

What is the main disadvantage to infrared? ›

Following are the disadvantages of Infrared sensor: ➨Infrared frequencies are affected by hard objects (e.g. walls, doors) , smoke, dust, fog, sunlight etc. Hence it does not work through walls or doors. ➨Infrared waves at high power can damage eyes.

Is film sensitive to infrared light? ›

In infrared photography, the film or image sensor used is sensitive to infrared light. The part of the spectrum used is referred to as near-infrared to distinguish it from far-infrared, which is the domain of thermal imaging. Wavelengths used for photography range from about 700 nm to about 900 nm.

What are the disadvantages of infrared? ›

Disadvantages of Infrared sensor :
  • Infrared frequencies are influenced by hard articles (for example dividers, entryways), smoke, dust, haze, daylight and so on Thus it doesn't work through dividers or entryways.
  • Infrared waves at high force can harm eyes.
21 Dec 2020

Can you use infrared in daylight? ›

Do Infrared Cameras Work In the Daylight? Infrared cameras should not be confused with night vision, which enhances visible light. Because infrared cameras measure light that is not visible, they can work in darkness as well as daylight.

Is infrared better than night vision? ›

Infrared goggles can be used with even in total darkness. The biggest advantage between the usual night vision and infrared goggles is that the latter is much better at spotting at objects that are partially or totally hidden.

Can infrared night vision see through clothes? ›

Because infrared light passes through certain materials in a way visible light doesn't, these materials appear transparent when viewed through an infrared camera. In the demonstration embedded below, visible light doesn't pass through the black t-shirt but infrared light does, revealing the iPhone image.

What happens if you expose film twice? ›

A double exposure is exactly what it sounds like, exposing the same frame of your film twice (or more if you're brave enough). This can produce some really cool images, layering up different scenes in one frame.

What is the 45 degree rule in film? ›

If you are directly above the stage looking down, you will want to have a light pointing at the area, 45 degrees off of the center axis, in each direction. This helps to ensure that both sides of the actor's face are lit evenly, and you don't have shadows on one side or the other.

What is the 90 degree rule in film? ›

90-degree rule The camera may never be placed 90 degrees facing the subject, but rather set off the center to give an illusion of depth. actualités Events filmed as they were happening, events that would be happening even if the camera weren't there.

Can infrared cameras see through walls? ›

No, it can detect heat from the wall near the surface that there is an issue, but not what is behind the wall. However, if there is something that is causing a difference in temperature in the wall, it will pick it up.

What material blocks infrared cameras? ›

Any electrically conductive material will block IR. The greater the conductivity, the greater the blocking. Aluminum foil will kill all IR, bot high range and low. Most plastics allow IR to pass through.

Does far infrared penetrate clothing? ›

Red and near-infrared wavelengths have the ability to penetrate inside of our body's tissues and cells, and can even penetrate through thin clothing.

Can infrared damage plastic? ›

Infrared emitters and modules for the coating of plastics

Infrared emitters heat without contact and precisely adapted to the material. Thus the coating dries without damaging the plastic by heat.

What happens when infrared hits a shiny surface? ›

Infrared radiation is absorbed by black and dull surfaces and is reflected from silver and shiny surfaces. When it is absorbed, all the particles in the surface are heated. So infrared radiation is used for cooking the surface of food (the interior is then heated by convection and conduction).

Is there a camera that can see through walls? ›

The latest version of a 'sense through the wall' camera, developed by Israeli company Camero, can detect any object, wire, or even shallow breathing of a human, from a distance of over 50-meters (164 feet).

Can infrared camera see through curtains? ›

Standard consumer camera drones cannot see through opaque window curtains; However, more advanced thermal cameras can detect human figures behind thin curtains.

Can you see fish with thermal imaging? ›

Since a thermal imaging camera displays a contrasting temperature background of the objects you are observing, it will not show fish with the same body temperature as the water. However, thermal imaging can help you locate fish, but it is not a good idea to use thermal imaging for fishing solely for finding fish.

Why is red more preferable in photography? ›

Photographic paper reacts to light to produce the image taken by a camera and stored on film. Darkrooms used red lighting to allow photographers to control light carefully so that light-sensitive photographic paper would not become overexposed and ruin the pictures during the developing process.

Can you expose film to red light? ›

No, you can't use a red light bulb because your film is sensitive to red light if it's panchromatic film (unlike the paper used for B&W prints), so you have to train yourself to operate in the dark.

How do you know if a film is overexposed? ›

Overexposed photos are too bright, have very little detail in their highlights, and appear washed out.

Why does red look blurry? ›

The reason is the red color's long wave length and that our eyes respond more to long wave ranges (not to be confused with color sensitivity which would be in yellow-green range).

Whats so good about a RED camera? ›

A RED camera is a highly customizable digital camera that's capable of creating gorgeous pictures in 4K to 8K resolutions. It's meant for professional and semi-professional cinematography.

Why is RED camera so special? ›

A RED camera shoots RAW footage files, which are file formats for uncompressed images that are large in size with lossless quality. This file format stores the fullest details of images so that they can be edited to your taste and preference.

Is red light or infrared better? ›

If you want to treat skin conditions on the surface, Red light LED session is focused and effective. If there is toxicity in the body or stronger metabolic effects are desired, an Infrared session may be the better choice.

Is infrared and far red the same? ›

There are misconceptions about far-red light and infrared light. Some assume the two are the same. While far-red light can produce some heat, as does any light source, it produces significantly less heat than infrared light.

Which red is closest to infrared? ›

Near infrared (red), green (blue), red (green). This is a traditional band combination useful in seeing changes in plant health. Shortwave infrared (red), near infrared (green), and green (blue), often used to show floods or newly burned land.

Are there health risks with infrared? ›

Medical studies indicate that prolonged IR exposure can lead to lens, cornea and retina damage, including cataracts, corneal ulcers and retinal burns, respectively. To help protect against long-term IR exposure, workers can wear products with IR filters or reflective coatings.

Is infrared carcinogenic? ›

Assessing skin protection

Visible and infrared light do not cause sunburn and they are not known to directly be a skin cancer risk.

Is infrared safe or harmful? ›

Invisible radiation, such as the radiation from infrared heating, is harmless for the human body provided the power, distance and duration are appropriate.

Do you need a filter to shoot infrared film? ›

Infrared film records the full spectrum of light, including the IR spectrum and the visible light spectrum. To make sure your film camera only captures IR light, you need to use an infrared filter. Most infrared film is for black-and-white photography.

What are the pros and cons of infrared? ›

Summary: pros and cons of infrared heating panels
Don't take up much spaceCan't fully replace a boiler
Simple to install
Low maintenance
More efficient than central heating systems
7 more rows
18 Oct 2022

Can you take infrared photos in winter? ›

For winter photography, I love taking black and white infrared photos so I really recommend it. It is possible to replicate some IR black and white effects in editing software, but it's not always convincing – I'd rather go for a camera conversion every time, and it gives old gear a new lease of life.

Why do we take IR pictures at night? ›

IR or night vision cameras use infrared light to illuminate images in the dark. We can't see it, but infrared light is actually all around us. IR cameras detect these invisible infrared wavelengths, enabling the camera to see in the dark.

Why is infrared better at night? ›

Second, infrared therapy uses red light, which in turn causes your body to produce melatonin. The more melatonin your body creates before bed, the easier it will be to fall and stay asleep.

What is infrared camera used for? ›

Infrared cameras are non-contact devices that detect thermal energy and then convert it into an electrical signal, which is then processed to produce an image. Not only are we able to visually see thermal radiation, but we can also precisely quantify and measure it in order to perform temperature calculations.

Can infrared photography see through clothes? ›

Yes, it is true that you can see through clothes with an infrared camera. Infrared radiation is electromagnetic radiation that has a longer wavelength than visible light. This means that it is not visible to the human eye, but it can be seen with devices such as infrared cameras.

Do photographers use infrared? ›

With recent advances in technology, infrared is a readily available feature for all photographers. Here are the ways you can shoot IR photos: Infrared film:The original method, this was the only way to shoot infrared for a long time, but it is used less now due to digital infrared photography's ease of use.

What are the two types of infrared photography? ›

IR photography can be done with either infrared film or a digital camera and typically involves near-infrared light in the 700nm-1200nm range. This is different than thermal infrared, which images far into the infrared spectrum.

Is IR better than night vision? ›

Infrared goggles can be used with even in total darkness. The biggest advantage between the usual night vision and infrared goggles is that the latter is much better at spotting at objects that are partially or totally hidden.

What ISO is used at night? ›

ISO. Ideally, you'd want to stick to ISO 100 to minimize image noise. But using this value in night photography is impossible because it's not sensitive enough in the dark. So use a high ISO between 400-3200 depending on how much light is available.

What does infrared do to your brain? ›

Invisible infrared light stimulates brain cells to produce energy so the brain can carry out its activities at a normal level. The patient will see no light, hear no sound, but will rest in peaceful darkness for 20 minutes while the light penetrates a centimeter into the cerebral cortex — the frontal lobe of the brain.

What are the negative effects of infrared? ›

Prolonged exposure to IR radiation causes a gradual but irreversible opacity of the lens. Other forms of damage to the eye from IR exposure include scotoma, which is a loss of vision due to the damage to the retina. Even low-level IR absorption can cause symptoms such as redness of the eye, swelling, or hemorrhaging.

Can an infrared camera see through walls? ›

No, it can detect heat from the wall near the surface that there is an issue, but not what is behind the wall. However, if there is something that is causing a difference in temperature in the wall, it will pick it up.

Do infrared cameras work in daylight? ›

Do Infrared Cameras Work In the Daylight? Infrared cameras should not be confused with night vision, which enhances visible light. Because infrared cameras measure light that is not visible, they can work in darkness as well as daylight.

How far can infrared camera see? ›

Depending on the camera configuration chosen it may be possible to detect humans beyond 15 km distance, ground vehicles or small boats beyond 20 km, larger ships or vessels and aircraft beyond 30 km.


1. Shooting Infrared FILM with Rollei Infrared
(Rob Shea Photography)
2. The Easy Guide to Infrared Photography
(e6 Vlogs)
(Ben Harvey Photography)
4. Shooting Infrared Photos
5. INFRARED PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERIMENTS - Tips for shooting and editing infra red photography
(Claire Middleton)
6. How to shoot infrared film
(Go Everywhere)

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