Infrared vs. Black & White

I do a lot of infrared (IR) photography at weddings as well as for fine art prints. Although almost everyone notices the striking look, I’m often asked just how it differs from a standard B&W photo.

First, I should note that IR photography differs from “regular” B&W photography. I use a specially modified camera that records the infrared light just outside our visual range rather than the visible light that our eyes have adapted to see. It’s the visual equivalent to high frequency sounds that dogs can hear but the human ear doesn’t.

Standard B&W Image

Standard B&W Image

The most obvious difference is in the “reversed” tonality of the sky and foliage. In the standard B&W image above the trees, bushes, grass, and other green plant life is rendered in a dark tone – which is what happens to green when we convert it to straight black and white.

Infrared Image

Infrared Image

However, notice how bright and glowing the tree and grass appears while the sky is a deep, rich tone? Notice also how the clouds that practically disappear in the standard image jump out dramatically in the IR photo? It’s very dynamic. The building is not significantly different between the two photos although the top of the turret which is painted wood reflects IR light somewhat differently.

It makes for equally dynamic portraits and wedding photos. And there’s always a touch of unpredictability. Fabrics that otherwise look the same color reflect IR light differently, many times rendering pants a different shade than coats or lapels. And skin tone practically glows, yet eyes are dark and mysterious.

IR_Port_Waterfall

I doubt I’d want to shoot an entire wedding in IR, but a few portraits here and there sure make for something different.

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