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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Film-Based Camera Equipment : Camera Film

Photography Question 
Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002

Film-Based - Infrared Film

I've been reading about various types of film. I've only used slide film and negative film. But, recently I saw some photographs made with infrared film. They appear to be black and white. I don't ever recall seeing this film for sale anywhere (for example, B&H) and certainly not at local camera shops. Can anyone explain what infrared is, a time when it would be better to use it, and where to get it. Also, any special equipment necessary to make it effective.
Thanks a million.

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12/14/2003 10:42:41 AM

Tony Sweet
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  HI Cathy:
B&H sells infrared film. With an 25 red or opaque filter, the film records light on the infrared spectrum. Just type in "infrared photography" in your search engine to see many illustrations of this film. Without one of the aforementioned filters, the images will look like regular black and white film.

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12/14/2003 11:39:18 AM

Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002
  Thanks Tony. I have a red filter and have used it with regular b/w film. It appears to give better contrast when used and film is developed. I always tell my lab that I've used it. I'll try B&H and try the film, compare it to what I've done and see what differences there could be.

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12/14/2003 1:06:20 PM

Sreedevi  Kashi   B&W infrared film is hard to find, harder than color infrared. But like Tony said, B&H or any other professional photo store will have it. Infrared film senses infrared wave lengths which exist where there is the most heat, so basically it records heat. I would use 28 red, or an even deeper red filter. For B&W it produces amazing pictures. The pictures themselves will not look truly B&W as the film records the heat as red.

It is also incredibly, incredibly sensitive to light. If you have one of those cameras where you can see that little bit of film when you look on the back cover- you could ruin the film. You really have to load your camera in the dark, because even that will ruin the film.

You could also choose to rate it differently. Personally I find rating it at ISO 25 works wonders, as it allows you to record a lot of the movement of heat. Now, this won't necessarily be very dramatic, but you'll see different grades of red in your shots, where the heat is moving. It's interesting, and rather serene.

Make sure when you get the film developed, you take it to a professional photo lab, and tell them what ISO you shot it at. They develop it for the way you shot it.

Try experimenting with color infrared as well. It's especially outstanding in scenic shots on a clear, sunny day, or when the sun is rising and setting.

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12/17/2003 6:14:53 AM

Vik Orenstein
Contact Vik
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  Hey, cathy!
Infrared red film, used with a 25 red filter, records images with the hottest (temperature wise) parts of the images as the highlights and the coolest (again, think heat, not color temperature) appearsing as the lowlights. So for instance, if you go outside and shoot a grove of trees on a sunny day using regular film, the leaves will appear more or less medium in tone, depending on their actual color and your exposure, but on infrared, they'll look white. Also, infrared film has a very beautiful, organic, high-grained quality to it that is different from any other high grained b&w film. I my experience, you'll get the best results "in the field" with this film. Always bracket widely -- the results are often un predictable. Use tungsten lights if shooting in stduio -- strobes don't "heat up" the subject, nor does indoor natural light, so the results can be rather uninteresting. NOTE: This film is highly sensitive and must be loaded and unloaded in the dark.

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12/20/2003 9:07:32 AM

Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002
  Thanks to everyone for taking the time to give me advise. I definitely am going to try this film and techniques associated with it. B&H was out of it and I'm on a waiting list for it. My local "pro" film shops are SO expensive and I try to save $$ where I can. I appreciate your help, and will post my results; no matter how they are!

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12/20/2003 9:15:09 AM

Sreedevi  Kashi   One thing I forgot to mention. Generally, when you focus, for infrared it's slightly different. If you have a manual focus camera, look at the focusing ring. You'll see a red line next to the center. This is for infrared. So when you focus on your subject, look at the distance and move that distance to the red line. It's sometimes good to use a higher DOF just as a precaution.

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12/20/2003 3:57:39 PM

Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002
  I have several cameras; all Canon SLR EOS brands. I often use the AF mode but usually use the manual mode. Thanks for telling me about the red line. I'll have to go look. I don't recall ever noticing it. I'm looking forward to trying this film as I'm sure others are now that we've had this discussion.

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12/20/2003 4:05:20 PM

Adam Pozek   Having read many of the IR posts, here is my 2 cents worth. IR film does NOT record heat. If it did, one could not hold an unprocessed roll in hand without completely fogging it. It records the IR wavelength of light which is invisible to the human eye. Human skin and foliage turn a glowing white. The sky and water go deep black. B&W IR film IS easier to find. Adorama & B&H carry it, as do many local pro camera shops. There are 4 basic types. Kodak HIE has the strongest IR effect and is easiest to find. Konica is also good, but it is only shipped to the USA once a year. Good luck finding it. Ilford also has a B&W IR film, but the IR effect is fairly week. Macophot IR has been making a strong showing of late. Kodak & Macophot Aura are the only 2 that give the halo effect. An opaque red filter (87) gives the strongest results. is an exhaustive IR resource. Kodak EIR is the only color IR film available. No opaque filters are required. Using combos of red, yellow & green filters create very interesting results. Check out

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12/23/2003 7:57:20 AM

T Lee   Hi Cathy,

I also have an EOS camera. Depending on the EOS cameras that you have, you will want to be careful with the film. Many of the "newer" cameras have infrared film advance mechanisms. My local camera shop has an "expert" there, that refuses to sell me infrared film, because he knows which camera I have. (S'ok, the other guys who aren't buffoons will let me buy it and experiment.)However, you should know up front, that depending on how fast you shoot, either the bottom of the frame and sprockets will be fogged ( since film loads upside down and the image records upside down) or as far as 2/3s of the frame will be fogged. This is based on pictures and accounts that I have found on the internet as of now. I have not been able to attempt it yet. If you are going to shoot it, keep it very cool, and dark til you load it, load it in the dark, (darkbag is excellent for this) and make sure you use the film all in one shot and fairly quickly. Then, get it intosomething cool again, get it processed as soon as possible, and make sure the lab knows what it is. Some photographers tape the top of the plastic container, just to give the lab technician pause to look at it before they potentially destroy the film.

Don't let all this discourage you however, I have seen contact prints on the net of slightly fogged sprockets and only slightly into the picture. If you gauge for this, you can still come up with some beautiful pictures.

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12/29/2003 11:29:08 AM

Adam Pozek   Cathy & T Lee,

I shoot with a Nikon N80, which also is supposed to create the fogging issue due to the internal IR film advance. I have run countless rolls of Kodak, Konica and Macophot IR film through the camera with no problems. The sprocket area sometimes shows fogging, but I have never had the fogging encroach on the image area.

IR is challenging and a lot of fun to shoot. Many people claim to know a lot about this film, yet they often have very little experience actually shooting it.

Please do not be discouraged! Experiment and have a blast.

If you have any questions, I would be glad to share my experiences with you or anyone else who might be interested. Feel free to e-mail me at

Happy Shooting!

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12/29/2003 12:29:07 PM

T Lee   Hi Adam!! Thank you so much for the additional information! I might yet contact you for more information. :)

I managed to find the articles that I mentioned above, that support what you say as well, in case Cathy wants to do some reading.

They all mention fogging, but not in a crippling amount.

Good Luck!

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1/1/2004 1:55:02 PM

Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002
  Okay, here's another question for you guys. I was planning to take this film to a photography shoot in New Orleans. I thought it would be interesting to use it with some of the shots I had planned to make. If I could get the effect I want it would be worth it. So, I'm looking for Konica, Macophot IR, or Kodak HIE (however, several of these are out of stock at B&H - hopefully they'll get it in before I leave in a couple of weeks). I load this in the total darkness. I'll use my Elan 7, although I do have several cameras and plan to shoot the whole roll (which is no problem) pretty quickly and rewind it completely and unload it in the dark. I have a commerical lab I use. He uses "true" black and white process. What, if anything, do I tell him about this film when I take it to him? I really am not concerned about the fogging from what I have learned from you guys. It seems that if it happens at all it will be minimal. It could even add to a dramatic shot. What say you? Thanks for all the help - Cathy

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1/1/2004 5:16:00 PM

Adam Pozek   Cathy,

New Orleans is a great place to shoot IR. You can get some nice effect in the French Quarter with the old buildings, wrought iron, etc. Although, you will really enjoy shooting IR in the garden district. Since IR is difficult to expose and focus, be sure to bracket at least 3 shots and use a small aperture for max DOF.

Kodak HIE will probably be the easiest for you to come by on short notice. I think Konica is imported in March of each year, so it will be near impossible to find for the next few months.

The only thing to remember to tell your lab is just to remind them it is IR film. I usually tape the lid on the cannister with masking tape and write IR on the top in red letters. I use a pro lab here in Atlanta that specializes in B&W of all kinds, and I have had a couple of scares with them not paying attention to the cannister I handed them.

Good luck, and I would love to see some of your results. I'm sure they will be great!


PS You ask at the end of your message "What say you?" You must have recently seen the Return of the King.

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1/1/2004 8:17:12 PM

Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002
  Thanks Adam and everyone. Wish I could just take you all with me. Wouldn't we have a great "road trip"? I'm going to get my film this week. Am kind of nervous about traveling with my camera equipment with the security being what it is now. The Garden District and Royale St. is where I planned to shoot the IR film. I'll set my camera for bracketing. You guys never let a gal down. And, by the way I did just see Return of the King - didn't realize I had used that expression, "What Say You". How funny. I guess it rubs off. Good movie.

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1/1/2004 9:58:02 PM

Adam Pozek   I've never had any problem with carry-on x-rays damaging IR film. Just be sure not to put in your checked luggage. Those x-rays will fry all your film in a heart beat.

All-in-all, I have had great luck with the security folks. The one time I was in a rush and copped an attitude with them, they may life difficult for me. Every time I have been polite and friendly to them, never a problem. I even had one guy tell me he was planning a trip to go photograph in Alaske, and he started asking me for tips.

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1/2/2004 1:52:55 PM

Cathy B. Sylvester
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/1/2002
  One more questions (puleeze). I intended to shoot this infrared film through my 25 Red filter. Someone told me I should use an Opaque 87 Red instead. Any suggestions? One over another? Calling all experts here...

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1/14/2004 9:37:25 AM

Adam Pozek   Cathy,
You can certainly shoot IR with a Red 25 filter; however, the IR effect will not be nearly as strong.

However, your lab guy is still partially correct. The #87c opaque blocks all visible light, so all that is left is IR. Thus a stronger effect. Of course, that means longer exposures and trying to compose, focus and shoot something you cannot see. If shooting Kodak HIE, I usually set my ISO at 25 or 50. I then meter without the filter in place and use these settings. I then add the filter and shoot.

Since IR focuses on a different plane than visible light, normal focusing does not guarantee a sharp image. If your lenses have IR marks on the barrel, you can focus as normal and then adjust your focus ring to the nearest IR mark. I simply stop down my lens and shoot at the smallest aperture I can. Again, this means even longer exposures.

There are two places I can recommend to get the 87c. The first is at - click "Filters" then "Infrared Filters."

If you use round, screw-in filters, any of these should do nicely. However, if you use square filters (such as the Cokin P Series), your only option is get a Kodak gel filter. These things are $30 each and are extremely flimsy. I once set one on some soft grass while I changed lenses. A blade of grass punctured it and made it useless.

An alternative is Singh Ray ( Their filters are of high-quality, thick glass and are (in my experience) indestructible under normal use. They do not advertise their opaque IR filters, but they will make one on request. Singh Ray filters are fairly expensive ($120 +), but the quality and durability make them well worth it if you plan to shoot a lot of IR.


Adam C. Pozek
Adam Pozek Photography
Alpharetta, GA, USA

"There is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy idea." --Ansel Adams

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1/14/2004 5:01:15 PM

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