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Processing the 550nm IR Filter

Hi, my name is David. I am an infrared Photographer from Austria, and in this article I will explain you the basic steps for processing infraed photography taken with the 550nm filter. This specific filter has a lot of creative advantages compared to higher cutting longpass filters, but also some disadvantages that you will have to keep in mind. I will try to explain both the basic postprocessing of the filter, as well as how to deal with its specific quirks and disadvantages.

The photos I am going to use as examples are taken with a Nikon D3100 converted to 550nm as well as with a Nikon 1 V1 with full spectrum conversion and a 550nm lens filter.

Important things to know:

I am neither a professional photographer nor a Photoshop specialist of any kind, I therefore don’t claim that my methods are either the best or only ways to achieve good results with an infrared camera. I mainly want to show you how I achieve my results and give you some help when choosing the 550nm filter.

Advantages and Disadvantages:

  1. First of all, a 550nm Filter has all the benefits of other filters, that means a camera that is converted to 550nm can use any other higher cutting longpass filter as lens-filter. So if you choose a 550nm conversion, you can still use 590nm, 630nm, 720nm, etc. screw-filters on your lenses! Please consider the dark viewfinder if using a lens filter, a camera with live view or electronic viewfinder is highly recommended in this case!
  2. With a 550nm Filter you can achieve results similar to analogue Aerochrome Film, as well as striking black & white photos! To demonstrate the possibilities, I added some processing examples further down the article.
  3. You are no longer restricted to using your infrared camera in the warm seasons! 550nm cameras can give stunning results even during the winter months!

 

  1. Lens hotspots that are usually associated with infrared photography are less of a problem with the 550nm filter, but chromatic aberrations or color fringing can still happen.

It is therefore important to test your lenses and choose them wisely. I got very good results with the Nikon standard zoom lenses and primes (18-55VR / VRII, 35mm f1.8 on D3100 and the 11-27.5 / 10-30 on the V1).

  1. 550nm filters in general are difficult to white balance! This means even if a camera is able to measure PRE white balance with a 720nm Filter, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to achieve a white balance with a 550nm filter.

While my full spectrum Nikon 1 V1 whitebalances easily with any filter I use, my Nikon D3100 has a very hard time balancing the 550nm filter. If you have problems doing a PRE measurement, try pointing your camera at a LCD computer monitor with blue, red or green colored screen while doing the measurement. This way my D3100 is able to achieve perfect whitebalance after a few tries. If this doesn’t work, try using a standard ND filter on your lens while doing the measurement, this can sometimes help. If no matter what, you are not able to achieve whitebalance, use the “tungsten” whitebalance setting of your camera and shoot in RAW file format. This way, you will at least be able to use your cameras screen to check your photos, but will still have to adjust whitebalance in postprocessing. I always do an in camera whitebalance, that’s why I won’t be explaining whitebalance postprocessing or custom profiles for RAW conversion in this tutorial, but you can easily find tutorials for custom profiles in the internet. It is basically the same procedure as with 720nm filters.

  1. For my postprocessing workflow I mainly use these tools:

Adobe Photoshop CC

NIK/Google – Color EFEX Pro 4 Plugin for Photoshop

 

Basic 550nm postprocessing step by step:

Straight out of camera with a basic PRE whitebalance, your picture should look something like this:

Our goal in the beginning is to achieve a result similar to Aerochrome, this means blue sky and red foliage! For this, we are going to do a basic channel swap, first red- blue to get red foliage and then blue- green, to get blue sky!

First create a new layer by clicking on the marked symbol, then choose –channel swap-

 

For the red- blue swap, set         red to  0 – 0 – 100 and blue to 100 – 0 – 0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next step – merge the layer down to visible by right- clicking on it and select – merge visible-

 

Now you have red foliage and green sky!

So in the next step we going to do a blue – green swap. Proceed the same way as shown before with these settings this time:

 

 

Create a new layer – channel swap – and set blue to 0 – 100 – 0 and green to 0 – 0 – 100

Again, merge down to visible and voila, we got something to work with!

 

Next thing I usually do is adjust the whites by using –color efex- -white neutralizer- on the clouds. This removes color casts. You can also try autotone in Photoshop, but I prefer this method, as it gives better results.

 

To get a more natural looking sky I created a layer – hue/saturation – to adjust the blues and cyans.

First the blues:

 

 

 

Next step cyan:

 

  1. From here I usually adjust the colors further to my liking, or use some –NIK color Efex filters – like for example darken/lighten center, cross processing, or do some selective dodge & burn.

This depends on personal taste, in this case I used contrast color range, as well as some cross processing to get this end result:

 

In another example I will show you how to get a result similar to the “superblue” or “NDVI” filter:

In this case I already did the basic steps as channel swap and color adjustments, but I didn’t like the outcome, as the scene demanded for some lighter colored tones in my opinion.

 

By creating a –hue/saturation- layer and adjusting the red tones, I created a more autumn like feeling, similar to the outcome of a super-blue or NDVI filter.

Again I proceeded by doing contrast adjustments, as well as using some NIK cross- processing filters to get this end result:

And last I will show you how to get striking black & white photos with the 550nm filter.

As already mentioned before, you can use any higher cutting longpass filter on your lens with a 550nm converted camera, but as I will show you now you don’t necessarily have to choose whether you want a color or b&w end- result on the scene. So taking your photos with a 550nm converted camera will give you the advantage to choose later on if you want a colored or black & white outcome!

The photo in this example already has some light color adjustments, as I wanted to do a color post process first, but then decided to try a black & white approach.

The procedure to get good BW results from the 550nm filter are basically always the same.

This is where we start:

To get an infrared “woodeffect” meaning white foliage, we first have to adjust the contrast.

Best thing to do this is using the –contrast color range- filter of NIK color Efex:

 

In the next step we convert the picture to black and white, also using a NIK filter –BW Conversion-:

You can now either adjust contrast with –tonal contrast- or –pro contrast- or try some cross- processing filters to your liking. I prefer to keep it simple:

Stitched Panorama

As I mentioned before, you are not restricted to either color or black & white! With the same file I also created this version:

Stitched Panorama

Some more examples for processing the 550nm Filter:

Lens Recommendations:

Lenses recommended for 550nm:

Nikkor 18-55VR II

Nikkor 35mm f1.8

Nikkor1 11-27.5

Nikkor1 10-30

Tested and not recommended:

Nikkor 18-105VR

Nikkor 70-300VRII

 

You can purchase the 550nm Filter in a variety of sizes Here!

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