How to shoot infrared photography with a smartphone

Aug 23, 2019

Vlad Moldovean

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How to shoot infrared photography with a smartphone

Aug 23, 2019

Vlad Moldovean

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I will start with a warning: Digital Infrared Photography it’s not easy & this will get technical fast.

Backstory

It all started when I saw some awesome Instagram photos in infrared and I ordered an IR filter (an 88mm ice 760nm from B&H to be more precise) not knowing much about infrared. Filters usually range from 590 to 8-900 nm and usually, this kind of colored infrared shots are obtained with 590nm on a modded camera because it lets some visible light pass as well as infrared. But I had no modded camera and the wrong filter so I decided to try regardless and soon found out that my trusty DSLRs have well-made hot mirrors (the part of the DLSR that normally blocks IR from hitting the sensor) but later discovered that my phone’s sensor is quite sensitive to infrared and this is how my journey started.

Gear

All my IR gear fits in a fanny pack! And it all adds up to around 25-30$ so it’s on the cheap end of the spectrum, considering you already have a phone that can produce decent raw pictures.

Camera settings

Shoot raw!

ISO

50 or 100 as low as possible (all the processing usually generates enough noise)

Aperture

since I shoot on a phone I only get to pick between f1.5 and f2.8 this won’t make much difference in terms of sharpness but it can help me get some more light and be able to shoot handheld

White balance

2300K the lowest my phone can go

Shutter speed

on a sunny day at noon I can go around 1/30 but it usually tends to go to the “hold your breath and pray for a steady shot because you were too lazy to bring a tripod” exposure time

Post-processing

First of all, if you develop your infrared raw files in Lightroom Classic CC you will have to use the Adobe DNG Profile Editor to create so you will be able to pass the 2000k white balance. If you process your raw photos in capture one pro you are good to go.

After I am able to get a proper white balance on my shot I’ll go ahead and develop the raw image like any other landscape photo making sure to add some sharpness, noise reduction and add some contrast, then off to Photoshop it goes. The common knowledge for channel swapping is replacing red with blue & blue with red. That’s cool, but you will get way better colors if you also split the green channel 50-50 between red and blue and in the blue channel sometimes it is nice to do +100 red, +95 green and -95 blue for more vivid colors and less of a washed-out look.

Now that the channel swapping is done it time to chase that aerochrome look while adding some light flare and some clouds to round out the image for this I used a hue sat adjustment layer to nag the yellows intro red and the blue into a more cyan look.

Final image

Pros & Cons

While it is hard and frustrating to start working on infrared images I find it very rewarding. When I started to get a hang of it after hours and hours of trying to get the look I wanted I had a huge smile on my face. Shooting on a phone while editing so aggressively has a clear disadvantage in terms of image quality but the images tend to come out more than good enough for social media purposes and in 2019 that’s fine by me. One big advantage is that instead of going out with a DSLR and a backpack full of lenses I can just grab my fanny pack and go for a walk, it made me rediscover photography just for fun, a thing that I lost in the process of being a pro photog for years.

Will this become my main gig? Probably not. Will I make money out of it? Probably not, but I’m sure I enjoy doing this for fun and it taught me a bunch about color management and manipulation.

In the end, if you want to see more of my infrared exploration make sure to follow my infrared only account on Instagram @vmoldo.ir and if you give it a try tag me in the posts I would love to know I’ve inspired someone to go out and have fun with photography.

About the Author

Vlad Moldovean is a self-taught photographer based in Brasov, Romania. He enjoys learning and experimenting, but his style can best be described as a mixture of fashion photography and digital composition. Make sure to check out Vlad’s work on his website, and give him a follow on Instagram and Facebook.

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3 responses to “How to shoot infrared photography with a smartphone”

  1. Steven Burton Avatar
    Steven Burton

    As I posted elsewhere:
    Take landscape photo:
    Tweak color rendition in Photoshop until you get a bizarre but believable image.
    Claim IR photography.
    No filter needed.

    1. Vlad Moldovean Avatar
      Vlad Moldovean

      as i replayed to you on petapixel it is not the exact same thing but if you are good at PS you can land somewhat close results

  2. Rik Amar Avatar
    Rik Amar

    Hi. Nice set-up. I’ve been shooting IR for more than 7yrs already with both the Hoya R72 and IR modified cameras but haven’t tried doing so with a mobile phone. Do you mind sharing in detail your gear set-up? Thanks!