The use of infrared light in night vision filming is nothing new. Ghost hunters and paranormal researchers, among others, have been using day/night cameras, which can see in near darkness due to infrared lighting, for a number of years now. IR light, as it is sometimes called, has also been used extensively by photographers who want to capture images and videos in the dark. But did you know that infrared light can also be used in broad daylight? Many creative photographers have known this for some time and they use IR light during the day or in a well-lit studio to create amazing and eye-popping images and videos - the ‘wow’ factor.
Basically, infrared light makes the invisible become visible and it displays familiar scenes in a wildly strange and eerie way. The contrast between IR and visible light is particularly sharp among landscapes because they appear unusual and unexpected. In certain instances, IR photography has been considered a form of art because of this. The essence of an IR image is the contrasts between objects absorbing or reflecting IR light. Water and blue skies absorb IR light, while grass, leaves and clouds reflect IR light. You will see a black sky with puffy white clouds, black water, dark grey trees and white leaves and grass. IR light can turn a green summer landscape into a winter-looking or outer-worldly wonderland. People’s skin will look very smooth and pale, sometimes even ghost-like.
Live objects, like people and animals, will reflect a greater amount of infrared light than inanimate objects. Leaves, foliage, grass and clouds, for example, reflect the largest amounts of infrared light, which makes them the whitest objects in your image. Tree trunks, rocks, mountains, water and sky, on the other hand, will absorb infrared light and will appear as darker objects in your photos.
Be aware that most digital camera sensors cannot see infrared light because they employ infrared blockers so that visible light can pass through for normal photography, keeping in mind that the human eye can also not see infrared light. These IR blockers can be removed and replaced with a filter that removes visible light. But that requires some adjustment to the camera settings and exposure times will be much greater. The best alternative to this is to simply get a camera or camcorder that is IR enabled such as a standard day/night camera, which will most likely also provide full light spectrum capabilities.
If you are uncertain as to whether your camera is IR enabled or not, there is a simple test that will tell you. Your TV remote control sends out an infrared signal. Just turn on your camera, point the remote at the camera lens and push any button on the remote. If you see a bright beam in your camera's viewfinder or screen being emitted from the remote, then your camera is infrared enabled. If you do not see anything when you press the remote or the light is very dim, then your camera or camcorder is not night vision capable. The whiter and brighter the light you see from the remote, the more sensitive your camera is to infrared, which is what you are looking for.
When shooting in IR, certain camera lenses can produce some abnormalities in the form of what is known as ‘hot spots’. A hot spot is a discolored ring in the middle of the photograph. It is brighter than the surrounding part of the image and has a slightly different hue to it. Hot spots appear due to the reflection of the coating on the internal lens barrel of a camera, since lenses are manufactured with visible light in mind. Additional or alternative lighting sources will usually remove most hot spots.
One of the main issues with just about all infrared enabled cameras is that they do not have a strong enough internal infrared light source to adequately see in full darkness. To compensate for this, an external infrared light is necessary in order to brighten the subjects being photographed. This problem can also come into play when filming in daylight, although it will not be as dramatic as it is in total darkness. An external light, such as the Infrared Flood Pro from Lucent Illuminators Co., can make a huge difference in image quality and capture, whether it is in broad daylight or in the darkest of nights. Fortunately these external IR illuminators are readily available for a reasonable price.
So, if you want to WOW people (and even yourself) with your images and videos, try using infrared or even full spectrum lighting in your photography. And don’t forget the external light source. You will need one, no matter what brand of day/night camera you have. How do you think I know that?
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