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Infra red Photography using Point and Shoot Camera and DIY Infrared Filter

In one of our earlier articles we have discussed – How to Take Infrared Photos Without Modifying Your Digital Camera. However there was a minimum requirement of a DSLR and an Infrared filter. Not every one of us posses these accessories and as is everything else related to photography; they are pricey. So here in this article we will discuss about attempting infrared photography the DIY route using a point and shoot digital camera.

infrared photography with point and shoot camera
infrared photography with point and shoot camera

Most digital cameras have sensors which are sensitive to infra-red light; however they also do feature a filter in front of the sensor whose sole purpose is to filter out infrared radiation from the light entering the sensor. This is done so as to prevent infra-red rays from deteriorating the quality of the pictures captured. But it is to be noted that even with the filter on; the cameras are still capable of recording infrared rays the sensitivity of the sensor to infrared rays will however be inversely proportional to the density of the blocking filter used in the camera. So it should be now clear to you that different digital cameras have different levels of sensitivity to infrared rays.

The Trick to Shoot Infrared

The actual trick we employ so as to counter the effects of the digital cameras in built infrared blocking filters effect is to use yet another filter in front of the lens which will cut off all visible light and only let infra-red rays pass. We will soon see how to make such a filter ourselves.

Checking the Digital Camera’s Infrared Sensitivity

As our aim is to shoot infrared pictures, the more sensitive the camera is to infrared the better. To check the sensitivity first thing we need will a source emitting infrared rays; most remote controls for house hold electronic appliances use infrared rays. So get hold of a TV or similar remote, point it towards your digital camera and either observe through the LCD screen or take a picture. The following example shows cameras with different levels of infra red sensitivity.

checking infrared sensitivity of digital cameras
checking infrared sensitivity of digital cameras

The picture in the right side top shows lower and the picture in the right side bottom show higher sensitivity towards infrared rays. So camera number two will be a better candidate for infra red photography.

Essential Supplies for DIY Infrared Filter

We only need certain easily obtainable things for our diy infrared filter. An unexposed, developed slide film will be needed to act as the filter. And we will require a small piece of black chart paper to make an attachment that would fit the digital camera lens. A pair of scissors to cut and shape the chart paper and a roll of black insulation tape is all we need to make our very own infrared filter.

accessories for infrared photography
accessories for infrared photography

Making the DIY Infrared Filter and Holder

Make a cylinder by rolling the chart paper, the size of the cylinder is critical, it should be neither tight nor loose. If it is tight, you might end up damaging your camera’s auto focus drive and if it is loose it will fall off or it will let light leaks happen.  Once you have rolled the paper, make tiny slits on the front end and fold them in to make a holder for the filter.

exposed and developed slide film to make infrared filter
exposed and developed slide film to make infrared filter

Cut out the unexposed, developed slide film (which is black, usually found on the end of slides) so as to fit the cylinder we just made using chart paper. It should fit snugly into the tube, so that it doesn’t come off easily.  You might want to make a couple more of these as you will need to stack more than one filter to get the desired effect. Now that you have your infra red filter ready it’s time to give it a try.

diy infrared filter
diy infrared filter

Shooting Infra red Photographs

The best time to shoot infra red is when sun is at its peak.  As we have already mentioned that the infra red filter we made will effectively cut off most of the visible light from entering the camera. So we are actually aiming to capture the infra red rays emitted by the living things which include plants and animals; which will result in very bright clouds and also the foliage appearing white.

point and shoot infrared
point and shoot infrared
  1. Even in bright sunlight we will require extremely long exposure times so using a tripod or any other stable place to hold your camera steadily is important.
  2. Disable auto ISO selection and Set ISO to ISO 100 
  3. Set your camera's white balance to any mode other than Auto White Balance.
  4. Set the camera’s shooting mode to Black and White
  5. Use your camera’s timer to prevent shake when pressing the shutter.

Certain Features I Wish My Camera Had

There are certain features which will be immensely helpful; but some cameras have it and some don’t, for example Manual Focus and Manual Exposure Control, Custom White Balance, and RAW Shooting. The point and shoot camera I had with me unfortunately did not have these features. And I found it very limiting as no matter which mode I select, the camera will always select the widest aperture (f/2.8 in my case). I would have preferred to use a narrow aperture of f/11 or f/16 which will enable me to shoot using longer shutter speeds and also increase the depth of field in the shots. I ended up shooting at f/2.8 but managed to extend shutter speeds a bit more by adding another layer of filter material to my set up.

Second problem was that of manual focus I tried the method of half click, obtain focus, place the filter and then press down fully to take the shot. But this strategy didn’t work as the camera locked the exposure down at half press and used those settings even with the filter so I got a complete black frame.  And when I attached the filter to the lens and then released the shutter using the timer I could see the camera clearly struggling with focus and I had no clue where it has locked.

The picture given at the top of this article is of the light house located near my house in Alappuzha, shot with a Sony Cybershot DSC-S780. 

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