Simulated Infrared

Classic Black & White Infrared photography used film that was sensitive to wavelengths in the 700 to 900 nm range. These wavelengths are not normally visible to human eyes. This is part of what creates a fascination with the eerie beauty of infrared photography.

Modern digital cameras have filters over the sensor to block infrared wavelengths. This is a good thing when taking photographs in the normal light spectrum. Infrared wavelengths increase the chances of blowing out the red channel. There are cameras available without these filters. Additionally you can have your existing camera altered to capture these wavelengths.

If you don't want to spend extra money on specialized cameras or alterations, you can simulate some of the effects of infrared capture in Lightroom. While there are many styles of infrared photography one of my favorites has the following three characteristics:

  • The blues of the sky and water approach black
  • Green foliage is snowy white
  • The snowy white foliage has a ghostly glow

Let's start with a bucolic scene with some green plants and a blue sky.

Start in the Basic panel and convert to Grayscale.

We'll come back to the Basic panel to finish up later. Now head for the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel. Boost the greens and yellows to 100 and drop the blues to -100.

Now we can go back to the Basic panel to finish the effect. Here you want to move the temp and tint setting to the left. Watch your image to see the effect on the sky and foliage.

To deepen the sky bring the recovery slider lower. Adding fill light and blacks will help with the contrast.

To achieve the glow bring clarity into the negative range.

Our result should now simulate an infrared shot.

Comparing the foliage and sky from our original and the infrared simulation we can see the snowy white leaves against a dark sky.

Of course your settings will vary for each image but the general idea is the same. Once you find a simulated infrared look you like don't forget to save it as a preset! If you would like to download a preset saved from this tutorial click here.