Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Infrared Processing in Lightroom

If you have your RAW image from an infrared converted camera in Lightroom, having to go to Photoshop or Photoshop Elements with Elements+ to swap the red and blue channels is a pain. When I made the move from Aperture to Lightroom 6, I was delighted to find, in a Google search, Jarno Heikkinen’s solution to the problem on his Capture Monkey website. His download provides Camera Calibration Profiles with reversed colour matrices for a number of cameras. To reiterate, it simply extends the profiles available within Lightroom. It does not, of course, work for jpegs.

I also remembered that Jason O'Dell had described an approach similar to, but easier than, changing Hue in Nikon Capture 2 using Viveza 2 (I have Nik Software as a plug-in for Lightroom).

I thought I would compare the basic conversions using these three methods. The starting point was a NEF image from a converted Nikon D80 with a 590 nm filter over the sensor.

As you can see there are differences from the same raw image. All I have done is to apply the conversion and then in Lightroom use Auto Tone. I have not done any further processing.

A Lightroom 6 to Photoshop Elements with Elements+. Red/Blue Channel Swap. Auto Tone in Lightroom

B Lightroom 6. Camera Calibration Profile Red/Blue Swap (Jamo Heikkinen). Auto Tone in Lightroom

C Lightroom 6. Edit in Viveza 2. Near 180 degree shift in Hue. Auto Tone in Lightroom

I then did a simple black-and-white conversion within Lightroom and these are the results:

Which method you prefer depends on the final look you are trying to achieve and how easy it is to get where you want to be. Each provides the starting point for further processing both in colour and black-and-white. For most purposes, particularly black-and-white, and at the moment I think I can manage with the wholly within Lightroom solution of Jarno Heikkinen, although for some faux colour images I rather like the Viveza 2 process. Whether or not I can manage completely without the channel swapping step in Photoshop time will tell as I try images with the different cut-off filters over the sensors of my converted cameras, with different white balance settings, with additional external filters and with different lighting.

How to—and how NOT to—get started in Digital infrared Photography

First rule: do not start with magazine articles such as those that have appeared in Amateur Photographer. Even a reader of the natural home of the head-in-sand luddite wrote to complain how misleading one article had been.

Second rule: Use the information available on the internet. It is far better than anything I have seen in a magazine both on taking and processing infrared images.

Third rule: Do not simply buy an IR filter and try it on an unconverted camera. The sensors of many cameras have virtually no sensitivity to the infrared end of the spectrum.

Fourth rule: To get started buy an infra-red converted Nikon D80 or D70 for £120-200 from the many available on eBay UK. You will pay much much less than the price of a conversion. This route has been completely ignored by the magazines. Could it to protect their advertisers? Also check which Nikon lenses are suitable for infrared since some show ‘hotspots’ on the image. Canon bodies—if you are that persuasion—are also available but less commonly than the old Nikons. Again check on websites which lenses are not suitable. The advantage of the old DSLRs over many converted compact cameras (also freely available on eBay) is that they offer RAW rather than just JPEG output, thereby offering greater opportunities for processing.

Fifth rule: If you do not want to pay for the full version of Photoshop to do channel swapping, use Photoshop Elements and buy Elements+ for US$12 which unlocks that capability.

These are some of the websites I found to be particularly useful in getting me started:

Lifepixel  and Kolarivision (good advice and guidance on their own conversions, filters and processing). Also this tutorial guide.

There are many other websites but some which were useful in the past are now out-of-date.