Black-and-White Infrared Film

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The look of black-and-white infrared films is not a darkroom effect but, instead, is a result of using, in conventional situations, specialized films that are intended to capture a bit of the infrared spectrum along with the normal visible light. Despite the common misconception, widely used infrared films don't image "heat" as we think of it. Instead, they are simply more sensitive to light that's even redder than the reds we capture with ordinary films, light in the near infrared portion of the spectrum.

Because infrared films see light that the unaided eye cannot, these pictures look quite a bit different from a standard black-and-white image. Anything that reflects infrared illumination especially well, such as clouds, foliage, or human skin appears much lighter than it does to the naked eye. Subjects that absorb infrared, such as the sky, appear much darker than normal. You can't predict ahead of time what an infrared photo will look like (because the image is affected by light you can't see), so these pictures are often surprising and mysterious looking.

Infrared film is difficult to use, too. Light meters don't accurately measure the amount of infrared light, so exposures may vary quite a bit from your meter reading. You should bracket exposures on either side of the "correct" reading to increase your odds of getting a good picture. Infrared film must be loaded and handled in total darkness, too, and your fancy new autofocus lens might not focus properly with infrared film. Fortunately, faking an infrared photo with Photoshop is simple to do.

Use the infrared.pcx photo (or another color photo of your choosing) from the website. Photoshop needs to see the various colors in the image, just as an infrared film or digital camera recording with an infrared filter attached does, so you must start with a color picture. Just follow these steps.

1. First, select the sky area of the image. Press Q to enter Quick Mask mode, and paint around the sky area with a soft brush, as shown in Figure 3.35. Use a small brush to paint the edges of the selection around the castle and trees.

Figure 3.35. First, paint around the sky area in Quick Mask mode to select it.

Figure 3.35. First, paint around the sky area in Quick Mask mode to select it.

2. Press Q again to exit Quick Mask mode, then press Ctrl/Command + C to copy the sky. Then press Ctrl/Command + V to paste it down in its own layer. Double-click the layer to activate Photoshop's renaming mode, and name the layer Sky.

3. Press Ctrl/Command + S and save the file as infrared.psd to preserve your work so far.

This document is created with trial version of CHM2PDF Pilot 2.16.100. 4. Double-click the background layer and name it Castle.

5. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer, and click on OK when the New Layer dialog box appears. The Channel Mixer dialog box should pop up, as shown in Figure 3.36.

Figure 3.36. Use the Channel Mixer to apply an infrared look to the greens of the image.

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Figure 3.36. Use the Channel Mixer to apply an infrared look to the greens of the image.

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6. To mimic the infrared effect, we want everything that appears as green in the image to appear much lighter than normal (because living foliage reflects a lot of infrared light), but in black and white. Click on the Monochrome button to apply the changes we're going to make to a grayscale version of the layer.

7. Lighten the green portion of the image by boosting the Green channel to 200 percent (the maximum allowed by Photoshop). Move the Green slider all the way to the right.

8. Reduce the amount of red by moving the Red slider to the left, to about 80%. Click on OK to apply the change. The image will now look like the one shown in Figure 3.37.

Figure 3.37. After adjusting the Red and Green channels the image will look like this.

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Figure 3.37. After adjusting the Red and Green channels the image will look like this.

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9. Click on the Sky layer and Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer to create an adjustment layer for the sky.

10. Move the Red slider to the right, to about 90%, and then click on OK to apply the change.

This document is created with trial version of CHM2PDF Pilot 2.16.100.

11. Save the image with the adjustment layers intact. You can reload the image at any time and make further modifications with the adjustment layers.

12. Flatten the image and save it under a new name. Figure 3.38 shows a comparison of the original image converted to grayscale, and our "fake" infrared image.

Figure 3.38. Darken the sky to complete the faux-infrared look.

Figure 3.38. Darken the sky to complete the faux-infrared look.

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