When shooting at night, high ISO, long shutter speeds, and an overall large sensor (in DSLR cameras) are still not enough to capture images in extremely low light situations. But with the emergence of infrared (or IR) modules and adapters for cameras, now shooting in even complete darkness is a fantastic possibility. Using night vision optics with your camera can present a whole new approach to low light photography, including shooting subjects, astronomy, and stealth applications. Here are a few handy tips to help you make sure your camera is compatible with infrared and night vision equipment, the best lighting techniques to utilize, and how to get the most out of the benefits that infrared imaging has to offer.
Ensure your camera does not have a built-in IR filter
First you will have to be aware of your camera’s ability to perceive infrared light. Some digital camera manufacturers build IR filters over the sensor to block infrared light as it interferes with how the camera records the visible light spectrum. By peering through the viewfinder or LCD display and activating a remote control, you can quickly determine whether or not your camera will be functional with an IR module or adapter. This is due to the fact that not all digital cameras are capable of detecting or displaying infrared light. Once you look through the viewfinder, and the IR module has proper power, you will either see a greatly improved light level, or not any difference at all.
Although there are modifications available to make your camera functional with infrared devices, these are highly risky and irreversible decisions, so only proceed if you have a camera you no longer wish to use in regular shooting situations.
Avoid “white light”
White lights appear overly bright to night vision optics and can wash out areas of your intended image. If you plan on lighting a subject, choose a red gel for your light source as it falls next to infrared on the visible light spectrum. If using gels is impractical, a dimmable white light source works well also. Of course, one of the greatest benefits of night vision photography is the ability to stealthily capture subjects, such as wildlife, without using any light source at all.
White light is light that falls within the spectrum of light that is visible to the human eye. When one views it through night vision equipment, it can be glaring and too bright for the human eye to be exposed to. Avoid setting up a photograph for night vision in which there is a large amount of white light present.
Use a manipulation program such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom
As your photographs will be ostensibly one solid color or another (generally bright green or red) against black, converting them to greyscale will help bring out the subject of your photographs. Additionally, adding color to your converted photograph will enable you to transform the subject into something otherworldly.
Get creative and explore the possibilities
Try using different exposure settings and focal lengths. Most infrared adapters will allow for an entire family of lenses, and although it may take a bit of getting used to, you might find you have a greater range of options when utilizing normal lenses with night vision optics. The effects of infrared on the subject will also help to create intriguing aspects to your images, such as blackness in the eyes, veins being visible through skin, and many other results that you can play with creatively.
So whether you own a night vision camera, optics adapter, or are willing to have your old Nikon modified, hopefully these tips will help you explore a whole new realm of photographic opportunities in night vision photography.
Craig Pearson is an avid hunter, outdoorsman, and adventurist. His main passions are hog hunting in Texas and writing about his many adventures. He currently blogs for nightvision4less.com, a supplier of high quality night vision equipment.