I'm very new to photography and got attracted to the infrared photos I keep seeing online.

I decided to try experimenting with something cheap to see if I have any hope in this hobby or not. I got an old Sigma SD14 because it doesn't require conversion, as the internal filter can be simply popped out. I also got a Hoya r72 filter. Using the kit lens, for the moment.

Now, for some reason, all my photos end up either horrendously overexposed but with at least some information in them, or total garbage with literally no information in the photo.

I've tried what I feel is every combination of ISO, F and shutter speed with different, but all equally terrible results. I know I can't expect too much from the cheap old camera I got, but it should be able to produce something usable, at least according to other experiences I find online.

I've uploaded a couple of RAW samples and would be endlessly grateful to anyone who'd be able to give me any pointer at all about what I am doing so deeply wrong. How come even on the best of my photos, if it's blueish - everything is equally blueish, or if it's redish - everything is redish (see the linked samples). On other photos I see, trees look e.g white or pinkish, but the buildings do not.

Could it be that I simply somehow damaged the sensor so everything appears too bright?

Terribly sorry for the broadness of my questions, but I still lack the vocabulary to express myself better. I'm learning, but need direction...


There are several common problems with IR photography. Not all of these apply to your situation.

  • The camera could be damaged. This is unlikely if your camera works as expected for visible light. Based on examination of your raw files, your camera seems to be working fine.

  • You could have a bad filter. Based on examination of your raw files, your filter appears to be working fine.

  • Your camera may not be able to handle white balance for IR. This is very likely because most cameras have this problem. This issue affects your ability to preview images in the field and your post-processing workflow. It should not hinder your ability to process the raw files.

  • Your camera settings may not be optimal for IR. You may need to use a different metering setting, add exposure compensation, or even use full manual mode. Since camera settings for IR tend to be idiosyncratic, you will need to experiment.

  • You need to tweak settings when RAW processing.Leon demonstrates this to likely be the case. I used RawTherapee to process one of your images. The following settings are particularly relevant:

    • Color management must be turned off because it is unable to handle IR correctly. Processing the images in color, even when it appears monochromatic, allows you to optimize the curves for each channel separately.

      Color Management
      Input Profile: None,
      Working Profile: sRGB,
      Output Profile: No ICM.

    • Increase exposure compensation to 5.5. (Consider increasing EV when taking IR photos.)

    • White Balance temperature 1500, tint 10.

    • RGB curves to visually "normalize" histogram.

    • Adjust tone curve to mild s-shape.

    After exporting the image, I used GIMP by to adjust levels and reduce noise by averaging the color channels.


Your raw files are monochromatic because you used a 720nm filter. Longer wavelength filters, such as 850nm or 950nm, are likely to be "more" monochromatic. The subtle color effects some people get with 720nm filters comes from the quality of the IR filter. Lower quality IR filters let more visible light through, creating false colors. Different IR response by different colors in bayer filters, which your camera does not contain, may also contribute to false colors.

If you want to create false-color IR images, you will need to use a 680nm filter. Swapping the R-B channels would create dark-blue skies and golden leaves.

  • Any clue on how to achieve that beautiful pink foliage? – kaqqao Sep 28 '18 at 14:08
  • The raws were underexposed over 5 stops. Maybe some color will be captured if you increase exposure. If not, it might be a limitation of the sensor. – xiota Sep 28 '18 at 19:28

This is standard for digital IR photography.

You will get better results if you set the camera to a B&W mode (if there's such an option on your camera) or if you manually convert your images to B&W and adjust in post-production just like you would any other image from a digital camera.

This is a necessary post-production process for digital IR photography.

You can also do color manipulations (See: https://petapixel.com/2016/10/27/introduction-digital-infrared-photography/)

B&W Conversion

  • Hey, thanks for the answer and the great work you've done with the photo! Much appreciated! But... how do people get the beautiful pink and yellow foliage in their photos? Perhaps different filters? – kaqqao Sep 26 '18 at 16:47
  • 2
    There is IR with different spectrums - 750nm, 850nm, which produce slightly different looks. but ultimately all of that is done in post-production. One technique is called "channel swapping" (slrlounge.com/…) – Leon Sep 26 '18 at 16:57
  • Ah, the photo in the article you linked looks absolutely dreamy 😍That's what I'm ultimately after. – kaqqao Sep 26 '18 at 17:03

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