Tools For Infrared Post Processing

Or, How You Should Spend Your Money!

Abondened Car on Rt. 66. Canon G10 665 IR Conversion

Get a group of 10 photographers together in a group and ask “What editing software do you use?”  Chances are that you will get 3 answers, Photoshop CS#, Photoshop Elements # and Adobe Lightroom.  While all 3 have a useful place in the photographic community there are several fact that you must know when it comes to Infrared photography.

I will admit that I know literally nothing about Adobe Lightroom.  I had an evaluation copy of it when it first arrived on the scene and can tell you that I hated it with a passion.  It made no sense to me in its structure, GUI and inner working (OK, I guess that it means that I know 1 thing about it: I don’t like it!)  With that being said let’s list some of the editing tools and structures that we need for Infrared work:

  1. Advanced Editing features for spot cleanup and image repairs.  CS, Elements and likely Lightroom will fall into this one.
  2. Ability to work in 16 bit color space. CS for sure, Elements is very limited, couldn’t say about lightroom.
  3. Ability to run ACTIONS. CS only!
  4. Ability to run ALL of the NIK Software plugins.  CS, Elements and Lightroom.
  5. Totally Closed Loop Color System (Full ICC profile controls). CS only!
  6. Channel Mixer functionality. CS only!

OK, are you starting to see a pattern here?  Lets take a look at the most important functionality of your post processing software, creation of the Faux Color Infrared image!

  • For this you MUST have a channel mixer in order to swap the Red and Blue channels.  An added benefit would be to run a photoshop action in order to do this in an intelligent and automated fashion.  So, if you plan on doing any Faux Color work you MUST have some version of the full blown Photoshop CS family!
  • NIK filters are very important!  They allow us to take our Infrared Photography to their absolute best!  luckily, all of the Adobe products can act as a wrapper for NIK!
  • 16 Bit files and filters are very important for quality matters of colors and contrasts.  Doesn’t an image with 4.3 billion colors sound better than one with 16 million?  If so then you really need 16 bit functionality at least in the editing stages!
  • If you plan on doing your own printing then you need the ability of controlling your color space through specific targeted ICC profiles!  This is only fully implemented in the CS family!

Faux Color, Waccama River, Canon 20D, 590nm Conversion

You should consider your software just as important as your camera equipment.  Why spend thousands of dollars on cameras and lenses only to spend $79.00 on editing software?  It has always been a hard learned lesson for me thinking that I could buy cheap and upgrade to something better later on after I improved!  The truth of the matter is that money spent in this fashion was foolishly thrown away.  If you are actively pursuing a growing interest within the field of digital photography then you NEED the advanced post processing software tools from the very onset.  You will learn the tools the first time, have the necessary functionality as you grow in ability and never have to purchase them again in the future except in the form of upgrades! You can be shooting a dedicated Point & Shoot IR system and still need the advanced functionality that only CS and NIK can give you!

You have all read my lists on how to Post Process your images using Photoshop CS5, the Photoshop Channel Swap Action and NIK’s Define 2.0, Viveza 2.0, and Silver EFX.  You know how I create my images in frighting detail.  I am NOT saying that my was is the only way, but I believe that it is the BEST and Fastest way!

Other things that you can do to assist you in improving your photography are  to join clubs and groups with active outings and meetings!  Find like minded photographers in places like FaceBook.  Attach yourself to other photographers.  Send ME emails and comments here. If you have questions I will address them via a post here so that we can share with other like minded photographers! Take courses and workshops!  Pretty soon you will see that you have become an advanced photographer!

But no matter which direction you go keep at it.  Carry a camera with you and keep taking images! As long as you have the right Post Processing tools on hand they you will continue to advance your abilities!


2 comments on “Tools For Infrared Post Processing

  1. Hello Mark,
    Thanks for your information. I’m an IR addict who has four IR converted cameras that were acquired before I knew the value of a color channel mixer.

    I’ve always objected to Photoshop CS because of its price. After buying a Mac computer with Aperture, I progressed to the channel mixer problem and found two much less expensive solutions. (Note I can prove what I have to say in the Mac environment, as for Windows, I’m fairly certain, but not totally certain that these solutions will work.

    For Mac alone, Pixelmator, an import from Great Britan has a channel mixer that easily plugs into Aperture. That’s a fact.

    My best solution however wraps around Photoshop Elements and a plugin named Elements +, a $20 add on that puts a channel mixer in hand via PSE. My experiments with PSE 8 and 9, on the Mac, put version 8 on top because of the ease I had in adding Andrei Dubrovsky’s Elements +. With PSE 9 had to engage Erin at Texas Chicks to install Andrei’s neat package of marvelous plugins/actions. I think both versions will easily accommodate Andrei’s plugins if done on a PC.

    Accordingly, I’m an IR buff who has found a low-cost way to get rolling in infrared post-processing, and I’m glad to pass it on to anyone who enjoys IR photography.

    One more item. I’d sure appreciate some leads as to where I can purchase the low number IR filters that you have convinced me I need.

    All the best, and thanks again for your outstanding information.

    Martin Young
    Peterborough, New Hamphire

    • Martin, thanks so much for the fine comment! I am going to pass on your info on the Facebook infrared photographers group as well! I will try this plugin myself as I have elements 9 along with CS5. Most of my students have elements. What we really need is a way to run the actions on elements! As for the lower filters, realize that you MUST have a full spectrum converted camera to use them! You can purchase the B+W 090 and 091 filters 590nm & 630nm at Amazon for very little money!

      What cameras and conversions are you using so far! You still have a while to go to catch up to my 12 IR conversions plus I am considering a Panasonic GH2 converted to 590nm! It will NEVER end!

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