Photography enthusiasts (and Wikipedia) often call photography that happens outside of the visible spectrum full-spectrum photography.

From a scientific standpoint, however, I do not believe that these cameras indeed capture the "full" spectrum - or that there is such a thing in the consumer market. They do not capture X-Rays or Gamma rays, and other wavelengths like far infrared or ultraviolet are probably left out too.

Is there a better, scientifically accurate way to call a camera that has been converted to capture wavelengths that are outside of the visible spectrum, or this type of photography?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why are you searching for an alternate phrase? \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Nov 26, 2019 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Fuller-spectrum" photography? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Nov 26, 2019 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Full-spectrum-ish, depending on the pedantry of the person you're talking with"? \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Nov 26, 2019 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @scottbb (good) scientists are usually rigorous with language🙂 \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2019 at 2:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Clear communication isn't about being "rigorous" with language. It's about using language appropriate for the context. The word "fundamental" has different meaning to physicists then it does to anyone. It's ridiculous to insist on the physics usage in non-physics contexts. Similarly for "proof", which has different meanings in mathematics, science, law, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Nov 27, 2019 at 8:20

2 Answers 2


Every field of study and practice has established terminology and usage. It generally does not make sense to apply the jargon of one to another. For instance, suppose you take photos with a "720nm" bandpass filter. "720nm" may be considered a misnomer because some shorter wavelengths and most longer wavelengths are allowed through. But for the sake of efficiency of communication, it's sufficient to refer to them as 720nm filters. Those who are interested may refer to the transmission charts.

Full-Spectrum Photography adequately communicates the concept of light capture beyond the visible and is understood by most people. The use of the word Photography excludes wavelengths that are generally not considered to be light, such as X-rays, gamma rays, and heat. The recording of other spectra often have their own specific terms, such as radiography.

Some options to consider:

  • Visible and Near Infrared (VNIR). String together the specific spectra you're interested in. UV + V + NIR + ETC.

  • Specify the nominal wavelengths of the filters. Wonder why scientists don't object that the filters are imperfect and allow other wavelengths through.

  • Dual spectrum. For photography that excludes certain spectra. Examples: blue + IR and UV+IR.

  • Expanded Spectrum, Extended Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, etc.

  • NDVI (Normalized difference vegetation index) – For photography used to evaluate plant health.

  • Ghost Hunting. I'd consider this phrase, just to see how people respond. If they insist that ghosts don't exist, I'd show them some flare ghosts:

    Sun Star and Flare Ghosts

  • Tell them it really is "full spectrum", they just can't see all of it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks - great answer, I think scientists I talk with would prefer UVNIR to "full-spectrum". I think the camera I use is converted to UV, visible, and IR light, would UVNIR work? Has a nice ring to it 🙂 \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2019 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no idea. Feels kind of like making things up. UVNIR might be considered dual spectrum (no visible)? Perhaps UVVNIR. But some might object that you're not capturing all of the NIR or UV spectra. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Nov 27, 2019 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you merge all channels available into one channel, you might also call it panchromatic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pixelcode
    Feb 7, 2023 at 19:46

You may also find the term 'Hyperspectral' or 'Multispectral' useful. A standard camera producing R,G,B is 'multispectral'.

I don't know if you're attempting to generalize a modified camera (such as removal of the IR cut), but if so multispectral may be more useful.

There is also a camera modified with a variety of 'cut' filters such that each portion receives different wavelengths.

Sensors that can simultaneously provide all wavelengths would be hyperspectral, but the term can be used and abused prodigiously in non-scientific efforts.


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