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Infrared film

Tricky to use; surprising in its results

Photography by infrared light can be accomplished using a special film (available in black and white or color) that is sensitive to infrared light. It is called, not surprisingly, infrared or IR film. Infrared film is particularly useful in penetrating particularly-dense haze in aerial photography, in verifying the healthiness of vegetation, in crop and forest surveys, in capturing visual information that cannot be recorded by normal film, and in recording the effects of heat. It is also useful in medicine, where specific skin conditions and other disorders may show up more distinctly on IR film.

To provide you with one of its very practical uses, we go back to its beginnings. IR film was initially developed for the military so that foliage camouflage could be distinguished from live vegetation.

Under very hazy atmospheric conditions which normal film can’t penetrate, IR film can clearly show a far-off scene that may be totally invisible to the eye.

Infrared radiation is basically heat radiation, and therefore it is possible to photograph a heated frying pan or another thermal source in complete darkness using infrared film. Infrared film must be handled, including loading and unloading your camera, and processing, in total darkness. You must also be careful that there are no very hot items in the darkness that may cause the film to be accidentally exposed. (Your body heat is insufficient to affect the film.)

Shooting digitally?

Note that infrared photography can also be accomplished using a digital camera that is sensitive to infrared waves, which most digital cameras are. Click here or on the "Infrared digital photography" link below for more information.

"IR" or infrared film is available in both black and white and color.

Total darkness is essential in the handling of infrared film to avoid fogging.
Total darkness is essential in the handling of infrared film to avoid fogging.

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Infrared digital photography

Infrared light's effect on digital photography