Camera Settings for Infrared Photography

To have the best quality infrared photography, you need to know how to adjust the best camera settings for infrared photography. We must remember that in infrared photography, the camera sensor does not record visible light, but only the radiation of the infrared spectrum. Among other things, we must know and avoid creating too much noise to ensure proper exposure, but also appropriate exposure and ISO value. These are just some examples of why it is important to know the best settings for infrared photography, and below we will tell you in much more detail about all the necessary settings.
Camera Settings for Infrared Photography

Do not skip our articles on Digital Infrared Photography, but also on Infrared Photography in General, where you will discover a lot of useful information about this type of photography. Register also on our Marketplace and find amazing photos there, as well as buyers for your photos.

To set the best camera settings for infrared photography, one of the most important things you need to know is how to set the white balance on your camera. Adjusting the white balance represents balancing the intensity of the basic colors: red, green and displaying neutral tones (gray) without any coloration. The white balance is adjusted according to the type of light source and is important for correct and high-quality color reproduction in the photo.

Human observation system adjusts the white balance spontaneously because the human brain recognizes and adjusts the color of the light source so that it seems to us that neutral tones (white and gray) are always neutral regardless of the lighting, using acquired experience and previously seen phenomena.

Digital camera can also adjust the white balance automatically depending on the shooting conditions, unlike classic color photography where it was necessary to select a film adapted to artificial or daylight lighting in advance. Filters were often placed in front of the lens that adjusted the color temperature of the light with additional filtering when making positives from film negatives.

Each light source emits light of a certain color, which depends on the temperature of the filament or other processes where photons are released. If the temperature at which the photons are emitted is lower, the light is redder, and the higher the temperature, the light is bluer, whereby the color temperature of the light is expressed in Kelvin degrees.

The biggest problem for automatic white balance adjustment in digital cameras is mixed light (eg house light and daylight), which often produces unbalanced or unnatural colors when taking digital photos. When using the flash, problems with mixed light are also possible if the room is lit by the ordinary household or fluorescent lamps. In this case, it is good to filter the light of the flash with gelatin filters that are placed in front of the flash’s reflector, yellowish for ordinary light bulbs, and green for fluorescent lighting.

How to set White Balance for Infrared Photography

Fluorescent light is also problematic for white balancing and achieving natural colors, and so-called “white spots” often occur. “holes” in the spectrum, i.e. a non-continuous spectrum, given that we only see what is illuminated, and certain colors may be missing in the photo under such lighting.
This is why digital photographers shoot in “RAW” format, where it is possible to adjust the white balance afterward. It is also possible to adjust the white balance of the color before the shooting, because with most digital cameras there is an option to adjust the white balance parameters, and automatic white balance adjustment is increasingly perfect.

It depends on the filter that will pass more or less red. Test cards are often used today to determine white balance and white color for taking color photos. By applying test maps with a certain light source, the correct white color balance can be determined, which gives natural colors in photographs. By adjusting the white color balance, different effects can be obtained on photos.

However, in infrared photography, to achieve characteristic effects, the adjustment of the white balance must necessarily be performed manually. It is most often recommended to use as a template a green surface illuminated by the sun, for example a lawn or a blue sky, or white paper illuminated by the sun.

Exposure Times for Infrared Photography

Exposure is the total amount of light that is allowed to fall on the photographic medium (film or sensor), measured in lux seconds and is determined from the exposure value and the brightness of the scene. It is known that exposure values are all combinations of exposure time and lens aperture that produce the same amount of light. Cameras usually have built-in light meters that can capture infrared radiation, but such automatic measurements can lead to incorrect exposure calculations.

It is usually best to take a series of photos until the right exposure is found. It is much easier to shoot with cameras that have the internal filter removed. On such cameras, exposure is measured normally as well as for the visible part of the spectrum, so the automatic recording is recommended on modified cameras that were subsequently “changed”.

When an infrared filter is used on a camera, the exposure time increases and such recording sometimes requires the use of a tripod. Exposure elements on cameras that use an infrared filter are usually determined manually, and it is recommended that photos be underexposed, rather than overexposed since it is simpler and easier to process such an underexposed photo later in the processing process.

When shooting landscapes, manual adjustment of exposure elements is most often used, because the manual determination of exposure enables greater control over the depth of field, which is important when shooting landscapes. Small lens apertures are used, with adequate exposure. One of the methods used when determining the exposure in infrared photography is the “bracketing” technique, which means taking photos in series, usually 3-5 photos, changing the exposure each time.

Most digital cameras have a built-in “bracketing” option that allows you to take a series of shots, some of which are underexposed and some of which are overexposed relative to the normal exposure. However, even if this is not the case, there are such optional features that it will be possible to adjust the exposure by 1/2 or 1/3 of a stop, and the subsequent review selects the best-quality photo.

One of the best exposure techniques that can be applied to underexposed shots is to increase the sensitivity, which as mentioned above can lead to the creation of “noise” in the photo but also gives effects specific to infrared photography. As for focusing, it should be noted that most lenses cannot focus on infrared radiation like visible radiation. That is why it is necessary to shift the focus. The smaller the lens opening and the larger the focal length, the greater the focus shift. Some manufacturers mark the infrared range on the lenses for easier navigation and shooting.

Exposure Times for Infrared Photography

Sensitivity Camera Settings for Infrared Photography

Many systems define the sensitivity of photographic media and each has its measurement units and designations (ISO, DIN, ASA, GOST, EI…). ISO (International Standards Organization) system because it is accepted as a standard by all digital camera manufacturers.

Sensitivity is a measure of the sensor’s sensitivity to the light we expose it to when taking a photo. ISO values usually range from 50 up to, say, 25,600 and beyond. Common sensitivity values for digital cameras range from 50 – 1600, with a note that ISO 100 is twice as sensitive as ISO 50, and ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100.

When comparing the sensitivity and characteristics of individual cameras, the numbers are often misinterpreted, given that many models on the market offer high sensitivity. When interpreting the numerical data that defines the sensitivity of the photographic media, you need to be careful, considering that the photos taken and printed differ greatly from model to model, even within the product range of one manufacturer.

The high sensitivity of digital cameras can be compared to power amplifiers in sound systems. The digital camera sensor produces a certain electrical voltage that is filtered and amplified in the further processing process. Theoretically, it could be amplified indefinitely, but the amplification of the signal produced by the sensor also leads to the amplification of the signals that arrived from the parts of the sensor where there was no or too little light, which are the spaces between the photosensitive diodes.

In this case, too little light reaches the sensor, it is more difficult to define the color and texture and a wrong interpretation occurs, which results in the so-called noise in the photo, i.e. spots without details, which can be removed in further photo processing procedures using special computers program.

The higher the sensitivity, the lower the exposure, i.e. the shorter the exposure time. If we fix the exposure and the aperture, by raising the sensitivity value, we get photos that are longer exposed – brighter. The sensitivity scale is similar to the exposure scale, i.e. if the value is doubled, the exposure will also be doubled – so they are proportional to each other.

Most digital cameras have an automatic sensitivity setting, which results in photos with less noise and faster shutter speeds because the optimal quality is automatically determined. The automatic mode must be turned off when recording multiple recordings of the same motive and in situations where we want full manual control or experimentation according to our settings.

Furthermore, many moments need to be captured in low-light conditions, especially in professional photojournalism where low-light events are monitored daily and in that domain high sensitivity is mandatory. A good photograph is not only an item for sale, but also a document of time, so this document should have as much accurate, high-definition data as possible. Such results are made possible by modern sensors in cooperation with powerful processors and computer programs.

To achieve the ideal quality of infrared photography, the highest resolution should be combined with the lowest sensitivity, and the lower the sensitivity, the longer the exposure time. High sensitivity can lead to unwanted effects on photos, such as the already mentioned photo noise. However, since these are infrared photos where unusual effects are sometimes desired, the same can look like a grainy infrared film that gives the true impression of an infrared photo.

The biggest problem occurs with compact infrared cameras because they have a smaller sensor and a maximum sensitivity of 400. The sensitivity is combined with the aperture of the screen and the exposure time, where, taking into account various factors, one tries to ensure an adequate ratio of exposure elements so that the final result is quality infrared Photography. So, the sensitivity affects the quality of the photo and that – inversely proportionally. The higher the sensitivity, the lower the quality of the photo, that is, the more pronounced the noise in the photo.

Doubling the sensitivity theoretically doubles the amount of noise in the photo. However, the amount of noise in the photo varies from model to model, from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, generally speaking, lower sensitivity means less noise in the photo, which results in a better quality photo.

Examples of Sensitivity Camera Settings for Infrared Photography

• Sensitivity from 100 to 200 – with good light conditions, during the day, with well controlled lighting, i.e. in situations where you can control the aperture and exposure and miss a sufficient amount of light. These settings produce the cleanest photos.

• Sensitivity from 200 to 400 – for slightly darker conditions, in the shade or interiors where you don’t want to turn on the flash yet.

• Sensitivity from 400 to 800 – when shooting in interiors when using the flash. Namely, due to the slightly higher sensitivity, the background of the photo, which is less affected by the flash, is not very dark, while the front frame is usually exposed and no noise is noticeable.

• Sensitivity from 800 to 1600 – for events that mostly take place in the evening.

• Sensitivity from 1600 to 3200 – when the conditions are dark, that is when you cannot use a flash or a tripod, however this is also the upper limit where the noise is relatively small and where it works effectively in the photo, and everything further requires additional digital processing.


What types of scenes are best for infrared photography?

Infrared photography works best in scenes with high contrast between different objects or textures. For example, landscapes with green foliage and blue skies can produce stunning images with infrared photography. Also, scenes with water, clouds, and reflective surfaces can produce unique and otherworldly results.

What camera settings are best for infrared photography?

The camera settings for infrared photography depend on the type of camera, but our text Best Camera Settings for Infrared Photography can definitely help you with that question.

Can I convert my camera to shoot infrared?

Yes, many cameras can be converted to shoot infrared. This involves removing the camera’s internal filter that blocks infrared light and replacing it with a filter that only allows infrared light to pass through. However, this is a specialized service and should only be performed by a professional.

Should I use a filter for infrared photography?

Yes, using an infrared filter is highly recommended for infrared photography. That’s something that we didn’t mention in our article Best Camera Settings for Infrared Photography, but these filters block visible light and only allow infrared light to pass through to the camera’s sensor. This will produce more accurate and consistent results than shooting without a filter.

What types of subjects are best for infrared photography?

Subjects with strong contrast, such as landscapes with foliage and skies, architecture, and black and white portraits, are well-suited for infrared photography.

Can any camera be used for infrared photography?

Almost any digital camera can be used for infrared photography with the addition of an infrared filter. However, some cameras are more suitable for infrared photography than others due to their sensitivity to infrared light.

Author at Photography Official

Hey there, I’m Dominic Corbyn​, and photography is my life’s calling. With countless shutter clicks and endless hours spent perfecting the art, I’ve earned my stripes as a professional photographer. You can catch a glimpse of my world on the Photography Official blog. Trust me, I’ve poured my heart into sharing insights that’ll help you navigate the captivating universe of photography.

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