Fast and simple methods for achieving a vintage infrared image. Infrared light is the part of the spectrum that ranges between 700nm to 900nm.

Finished Image

Fast and simple methods for achieving a vintage infrared image. Infrared light is the part of the spectrum that ranges between 700nm to 900nm. We aren’t able to check this out light so infrared photography is extremely challenging as you would expect. From the out of date times of film photography, you could purchase Kodak´s wonderful High-speed HIE film to use true infrared images. The film didn’t have normal ISO rating so exposure needed to be bracketed and also you had to utilize a special infrared filter for the proper effect. Additionally you needed to load and unload film in complete darkness to prevent fogging the film since it was extremely responsive to infrared light.

Nowadays, in the digital era of photography, you can have an old digital SLR converted to take infrared images but you would need long exposures making it difficult for handheld shots. This conversion can be expensive and you would not be able to take normal pictures as before once the camera is converted. An infrared filter is also a must. I´m going to show you two easy ways of achieving an infrared image without all the complicated gear.

The first thing I want to cover is choosing the right image for this effect. Not all photographs look good in infrared. The main caracteristics of the effect is a dreamlike appearance caused mainly by foliage reflecting infrared light. This foliage is usually contrasted by dark skies that absorb infrared light. Another caracteristic, mainly of the Kodak film mentioned before, is the formation of a strong glow or blooming around the highlights that helps emphasize the lurid appearance caused by the absence of an anti-halation layer on the film.

When choosing your image make sure there are lots of trees and bushes to create a glow. Also make sure the sky is as dark as possible by use of a polarizing filter or simply darkening it with Photoshop. You might want to include a subject that will not reflect infrared light as a point of interest (a trail in a forest, a house, etc).

Orignal Image

The simplest way of achieving an infrared effect in Photoshop is as simple as basically making use of the B&W Adjustment Layer inside your layers palette. You have access to it by visiting the foot of the layers palette and selecting “create new fill or adjustment layer”.

This can mention the White and black conversion window from where one can choose a number of predefined adjustments that simulate different photo filters. Select the infrared setting. Now, according to your image, you may customize the values of various colors and just how they’ll translate to white and black accordingly. During my image I’d lots of yellow along with the default value I lost lots of detail inside the highlights and so i needed to pull those back a bit. Furthermore, my sky was not dark enough so I decided to tweak the Cyans and the Blues. This will depend entirely on you and the image you have chosen.

Black And White

This quick step by having some grain texture could be just about done but we’d be missing a crucial ingredient. How about those dreamy glows? If you wish to add the blooming effect than we will need to have a different approach. Eliminate that previous adjustment layer (or simply just allow it to be invisible of you need to make it around) and copy your background layer simply by dragging it on the New Layer icon at the bottom of your layers palette. Call this layer “Infrared”.

Black And White Result

With this particular layer selected visit your channels palette (it ought to be near to your layers palette) and choose your green channel. What we´re visiting try to this channel is blur it using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur..


While in the Gaussian Blur window you may set just how much blur you need to add channel. You need to blur but try to avoid exaggerate. If you’re able to still find out the picture that you should enough. With my case, because it´s a little picture for that web, a radius of four pixels was sufficiently good. For a large image you may go up to 15px.

Remember your image continues to be colored. We´re just looking at the green channel. To convert it to black and white this time we´ll use the Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer.


From the Channel Mixer window the very first thing we have to do will be to check where it says Monochrome. This may convert our image to white and black. Because we wish the foliage to appear as if it´s reflecting infrared light we’d like the green channel to improve +200%. To compensate (The full from the 3 channels must mount up 100%) we´re going to drop both the red and the blue channel to -50%

Channel Mixer

Now when you are back to you image you will see that the general effect is a significant amount of. Your highlights might be completely washed up. Don´t worry. What we will have to because of recover those details is to return to your layer marked Infrared and drop the opacity level on it. Again, this will depend on your image. In my case I gave this layer an opacity of 40%.

Channel Mixer Result

The very last thing we would like to try to really give the look of infrared film will be to include some film grain. In digital images this comes by means of noise. Merge all of your layers in the brand new layer by pressing SHIFT + CTR + ALT + E and call this layer “Grain”. Next, visit Filter > Noise > Add Noise. With my case, with an amount of 5% I´m fine but if your image is large you will probably need a higher amount. Just make sure it´s subtle not overpowering. Also make sure to check monochromatic to avoid colored grain and to select Gaussian in the Distribution Box for a more natural looking grain texture.


That´s all there’s for it! We do hope you found this tutorial useful. Here´s the both before and after pictures to view the way they compare:


Orignal Image 2


Finished Image1