Fujifilm Infrared Experiments

A straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph captured with a Fujifilm X-E4.

I’ve had a fascination with infrared photography for a very long time. Using light beyond the visible spectrum to create pictures often produces unusual results—an ordinary scene can become extraordinary with infrared photography. While I’ve been interested in this type of photography for awhile, I’ve not experimented much with it. Many years ago I shot a roll of IR film, but it didn’t turn out very well; up until these experiments, that was my entire IR experience. I’m an infrared novice.

A little more than a year ago I purchased a Fujifilm X-T1 with the intentions of doing a full-spectrum conversion. Digital camera sensors are sensitive to light beyond the visible spectrum, so manufacturers put a filter over the sensor to block that extra light. There are a couple of companies that will remove the filter, but the process isn’t cheap. I’ve yet to send off my X-T1 to get a full-spectrum conversion, but I still hope to do so someday.

Even though digital cameras have a filter to block infrared light, many cameras are still IR sensitive. You can test your camera by pointing a TV remote (which works via infrared light) at it. When you press a button on the remote, if your camera is IR sensitive, you’ll see the infrared light in the LCD or electronic viewfinder. It turns out that my new Fujifilm X-E4 is indeed IR sensitive!

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on this experiment, so I purchased a Fotga IR720 filter on Amazon for $20. The number corresponds to light wavelength. Visible light falls between 400nm and 700nm. Ultraviolet light is below 400nm, and infrared light is beyond 700nm. The filter number—in this case 720—refers to the light cutoff point. In other words, the IR720 filter blocks light below 720nm, and allows light 720nm and above to pass through. Because this filter blocks visible light, it allows a heck-of-a-lot less light to reach the sensor, which means you will be using larger apertures, higher ISOs, and/or slower shutter speeds—a tripod is helpful tool.

Another consideration is the lens. Many lenses have IR hotspots, which makes them not especially great for infrared photography. Thankfully, there’s a large database that shows which lenses are good and which ones aren’t. It turns out that my Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR is a good lens for IR, so I purchased a 43mm-threaded filter for it.

One thing that I knew going into this project is that digital infrared photography often involves significant editing. Some of the classic infrared looks involve swapping color channels and making large adjustments to the color curves. My photographic philosophy has evolved into: as best you can, get it in-camera. My goal with this experiment was to get good infrared results in-camera without editing, or perhaps minimal editing at most.

What I discovered is that it’s not really possible to get good color IR photographs straight-out-of-camera because the filter puts a strong red color cast on the picture. I set the white balance to 2500K with a shift of -9 Red (and Blue set to anywhere between 0 and +7), but unfortunately that drastic white balance adjustment isn’t strong enough to combat the red. For whatever reason, I liked the Astia and Eterna Bleach Bypass film simulations better than the others. For black-and-white, Acros+R with Highlight and Shadow set to +4 looked good, although I think it’s possible to get similar results without the use of an IR filter.

These are straight-out-of-camera pictures from my Fujifilm X-E4 with a 35mm f/2 lens and IR720 filter:

Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.
Straight-out-of-camera infrared photograph.

The black-and-white pictures are good, but the color images aren’t anything great. I wanted to see if the color pictures could be improved by using an app like Snapseed. Maybe a quick edit could make a big improvement. If I couldn’t achieve desired results straight-out-of-camera, perhaps the next best thing would be a simple edit on my phone.

I gave the same exposure two different treatments in Snapseed. Take a look!

This is straight-out-of-camera unedited.
White Balance and other adjustments in Snapseed.
Color Curves and other adjustments in Snapseed.

The two strategies that I explored in Snapseed were adjusting the White Balance and changing the Color Curves, and these two methods produced much different results. Adjusting the White Balance or messing with the Color Curves in Snapseed can have a big impact on the image; either strategy works, with varying results. Still, using these methods in Snapseed was more involved than I wanted, and delivered mediocre results. Better than straight-out-of-camera? Yes, definitely. But not as good as I would have liked.

I also tried using Capture One to post-process some RAW files, and the results weren’t all that much better than using Snapseed—yet it adds another step and takes extra time. Really, the best software for editing infrared pictures is Lightroom or Photoshop, not Capture One, because you need the ability to swap color channels. You can get alright results editing infrared pictures with Capture One, just keep expectations low. Or maybe there’s a trick that I haven’t discovered.

An infrared picture edited with Capture One.
An infrared picture edited with Capture One.

Overall I was disappointed with my color infrared photographs. It’s not possible to get anything other than a picture with a strong red color cast straight-out-of-camera, which is alright sometimes but certainly not all of the time. I didn’t find any good quick fixes. Maybe there’s a shortcut that I’m missing, but I think good digital infrared photography in general typically requires significant editing, and using the right post-processing program.

The black-and-white photographs look good straight-out-of-camera, but I don’t think that I achieved anything special using the IR filter (compared to what I could have done without it). I’m not sure that it’s worth the hassle of the infrared filter for black-and-white photography, although I might play around with it more; perhaps there’s a potential that I’ve yet to discover.

Not being one to quickly give up, I kept looking for a solid solution to easily achieve good-looking color infrared pictures. I had to think outside-the-box. Was the IR filter necessary? Was a good facsimile possible? I knew it wasn’t possible straight-out-of-camera, but maybe a simple filter in an app could do the trick? That’s when I discovered RNI Aero! The app is free, but requires a $10 annual subscription to unlock its usefulness. RNI also makes an infrared simulation plugin for Lightroom (that’s significantly more expensive than the app). This post isn’t sponsored by them (or anyone), but I have been enjoying this simple solution for simulating infrared photography, so I wanted to share it with you. While I would prefer to do this in-camera (Fujifilm, please make an infrared film simulation), the RNI Aero app is the simplest and quickest way to get infrared-looking pictures without fuss. I’m happy with the results—more happy than using an actual infrared filter on my X-E4.

Below are pictures edited with the RNI Aero app:

Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.
Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.
Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.
Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.
Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.
Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.
Non-infrared picture edited with RNI Aero.

I’m not giving up on actual infrared photography. I still hope to someday do a full-spectrum conversion on my X-T1, and attach the Kolari IR Chrome filter to mimic Kodak Aerochrome straight-out-of-camera. That would be a lot of fun! Maybe I’ll discover some other method I’ve overlooked to easily get good results without the need for significant editing. In the meantime, I’ll use the app to get infrared-like results whenever I feel the need for an IR look.

50557680816_8cb5645e93_c

Help Fuji X Weekly

Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There’s a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!

$2.00

Fujifilm X100V Film Simulation Recipe: Black & White Infrared

50200663541_c1115c9c0d_c

Stop Here on Infrared – Yellowstone NP, WY – Fujifilm X100V – “Black & White Infrared”

Infrared photographing is capturing light beyond the visible spectrum. It requires special film, or a digital sensor that has had the infrared filter removed. Any digital camera has the potential to be infrared sensitive, but the process isn’t easy or cheap. Full spectrum photography is similar to infrared, but also includes ultraviolet and visible light (not just infrared light). With full spectrum photography you can choose by the use of filters which light you want to capture. You can use filters with infrared, too, to control what light comes through, but not to the extent of full-spectrum. A characteristic of both infrared and full-spectrum in black-and-white is deep contrast, with dark skies and white foliage. One of my favorite photographers is Mitch Dobrowner, who converted his Canon cameras to full-spectrum for dramatic monochrome storm photography.

When I purchased my Fujifilm X-T1, I had the intentions of converting it to full-spectrum, but the cost of the conversion has prevented me from doing it. I still hope to do so, maybe later this year or perhaps next year. We’ll see. But I figured out a way to simulate something that’s in the neighborhood of infrared or full-spectrum on my Fujifilm X100V without any conversions. In the right light and with the right subject, it can be quite convincing! Even though you are only using the visible spectrum of light, it can appear as though you are actually doing infrared photography. Amazing!

Even in situations where this recipe doesn’t resemble infrared or full-spectrum, it will still produce a dramatic, high-contrast look that you might find appealing. Those who have said that Acros+R doesn’t actually resemble the use of a red filter on black-and-white film will appreciate these settings. Many landscape photographers, including Ansel Adams, employed a red filter to achieve a dark sky (for example, Moonrise Over Hernandez).

50199313783_4855b0460d_c

White Tree Black Sky – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Black & White Infrared”

The trick is to use a low Kelvin white balance in conjunction with a dramatic white balance shift when using Acros+R. I got the idea from Fuji X Weekly reader James Clinich, who uses between 3800K and 4500K with a 0 Red & +8 shift to achieve a darker sky, which is something you can apply to other B&W recipes if you’d like to better mimic the use of a red filter. I just took his idea a step further to make it even more dramatic for this recipe.

My Black & White Infrared film simulation recipe can be difficult to use. I find that it doesn’t always work well. It can be very tough to gauge the best exposure, and I’ve had to go anywhere from -1 to +3 on the exposure compensation dial to get it right. It’s one of the more difficult to use recipes that I’ve created, yet it is highly rewarding. If you like dramatic black and white photographs, you’ll want to give this one a try! As of this writing, it’s only compatible with the Fujifilm X100V, X-Pro3 and X-T4 cameras.

Acros+R
Dynamic Range: DR200
Highlight: +4
Shadow: +3
B&W Toning: 0
Noise Reduction: -4
Sharpening: -4
Clarity: +5
Grain Effect: Strong, Large
Color Chrome Effect: Off
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Off
White Balance: 2750K, -5 Red & +9 Blue
ISO: Auto, up to ISO 6400

Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using this Black & White Infrared film simulation recipe on my Fujifilm X100V:

50199341113_08426275da_c

Crafts & Hobbies – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50200773876_12309a494f_c

Cloud Above The Wall – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50200231618_a82f96626b_c

Flags Over IKEA Infrared – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50199850426_39ae200794_c

Pinnacle – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50199298923_58cd26e4f0_c

Suburban Abstract – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50199894371_87c7042b86_c

Suites – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50199887306_bb9795efaf_c

Paved Paradise – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50200297968_f8447734d3_c

Accessible Parking – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50201109307_ba764c210d_c

Done Shopping – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50200154382_3ee8192834_c

Soda Glass – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50200181702_1077785349_c

Couch Stripes – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50200926427_7ae5308f17_c

Flowers in the Sky – Big Sky, MT – Fujifilm X100V

50200123338_bd8d8d6dc2_c

Grey Hills – Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT – Fujifilm X100V

50200932317_b8cd01fb65_c

Abandoned Dream Infrared – Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT – Fujifilm X100V

50200932147_2d712731f4_c

Abandoned House by the Hill IR – Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT – Fujifilm X100V

50200932992_949869f18c_c

Henry’s Fork River – Island Park, ID – Fujifilm X100V

50200124068_ee163a4bdf_c

Upper Red Rock Lake IR – Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT – Fujifilm X100V

50200121898_861dc57d64_c

Red Rock Road Monochrome – Red Rock Lakes NWR, MT – Fujifilm X100V

50200118482_600fbbca34_c

Aspen Leaves Infrared – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50199313823_1250086638_c

Illuminated Tree – West Valley City, UT – Fujifilm X100V

50197351577_520f4d92b0_c

Infrared Tree – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

See also: Film Simulation Recipes

This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.

Fujifilm X100V Black    Amazon   B&H
Fujifilm X100V Silver   Amazon   B&H

Help Fuji X Weekly

Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There's a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!

$2.00

Fujifilm Full Spectrum (Or, Dreaming In Infrared Colors)

18763696833_4345cb0880_c

This is a fake infrared picture that I captured in Yosemite National Park several years ago.

I would love a full-spectrum Fujifilm camera for infrared photography. I’ve had an interest in infrared photography for some time, but I have yet to actually try it. Yes, I shot a roll of infrared film many, many years ago, but I didn’t understand what I was doing and the results were disappointing. I’ve also used software to make faux infrared, but I don’t particularly like the results from that, either. No, what I need is a Fujifilm camera that has been modified for full-spectrum, and then a bunch of filters to achieve various affects. You can find these cameras sometimes on eBay, like this X-E3 for $900, this X-T1 for $850, or this X-T100 for $590. [Edit: This X100F is the one I want, but at $1,300 it is outside of my budget.] I would especially love to buy the X-E3, but honestly I’d be happy with the X-T100. You also need filters, which can be cheap (like this one) and can be expensive (like this one), depending on the brand, filter thread size, and the exact effect you are after. Additionally, you need to know what lenses are good for infrared, but thankfully there’s a good database, so it’s not too difficult to know which lenses will work well and which ones won’t.

It would be great if Fujifilm made a full-spectrum version of one of their cameras (the X100F, perhaps). I doubt that will ever happen, unless there’s a sudden interest in infrared photography. Sigma cameras have a removable IR filter over the sensor, which when removed turns the camera into full-spectrum. The filter just pops in and out. An option like that would be pretty cool on Fujifilm cameras, but it’s unlikely. The best bet is to buy a camera that’s had the conversion done to it. Someday, when I have some extra money burning a hole in my pocket, I will do that. Until then, I will dream in the unusual colors of infrared.