Tipster #3: Faux Color IR Post Processing In Adobe Elements 9

How To IR Edit On The Cheap…

It does not really matter what IR spectrum you are shooting in under 720nm.  Everything from 720 down to 590 can be processed within Photoshop as a Faux Color image.  You have seen hundreds of example images of this here on the BLOG as well as several recipe posts on how to do it within Photoshop CS5 using the NIK filter set.

This post then is to put forward a simple recipe on how to do this within Photoshop Elements V9 and lower.  The main issues being the following:

  • 8 bit files
  • Lack of automated Actions or scripts
  • Lack of any REAL ICC Color support
  • Lack of a Channel Mixer

The real deal killer is the lack of a Channel Mixer within Photoshop Elements. Without this one simple tool there is no way to exchange the Blue and Red channel information and emulate Kodak’s HIE films.

But what if we found a way around the lack of a Channel Mixer within Elements?  Wouldn’t this then open up the opportunity to use a very low cost photo editing tool to generate our stunning Faux Color Infrared images?

One of my readers made a recent comment on a plugin from a company called that will give you several interesting plugins for Elements but also provide a Channel Mixer!  This is a great step forward.  After reading Martan’s comments I downloaded the plugin and tested it.  This post is about my results!

Before we actually get to the meat of the process let me start by telling you that I DO NOT LIKE ELEMENTS!  The interface is bad, the startup and libraian is terrible and the other issues listed above just turn me against it!  That being said, it is hard to turn up your nose to a product that only costs $70.00!

One other thing for you to consider… You really should be shooting in the RAW format!  Having 4.3 billion colors rather than 16 million is just not to be scoffed at!  Plus having 3 stops of exposure latitude prior to editing gives you great control on what is a usable image from the very start!

OK, the basic Post Processing steps:

  1. Convert your RAW image to Tiff.
  2. Open in Elements
  3. Crop
  4. Run NIK Software’s Define 2.0 noise reduction filter.
  5. Run NIK Software’s Viveza 2.0 and apply STRUCTURE only.
  6. Open the Channel Mixer, changing red and blue
  7. Run the Hue/Saturation adjustment and adjust DOWN the saturation HUE on the Cyan channel.
  8. Run NIK Software’s Viveza 2.0 and make your color, saturation, structure & contrast adjustments across the entire image.
  9. Flatten the Layers
  10. Save in your output library with a meaningful name!

Here is the converted RAW test image that I used for this test.

Processed RAW Ima


Opened in Photoshop Elements Ver 9

Elements 9 With Open RAW Image

Notice the placement of the Elements + tools just to the right at the top of the image! At this point you would crop your image to your own specifications.


NIK Define 2.0 Plugin Window

NIK Define 2.0 Noise Reduction Plugin Window

Most of the time when using Define 2.0 you will find that the automatic selection of noise areas and profile adjustments work great. You only have to press the OK button on the bottom to process the image.


NIK Viveza 2.0 Structure ONLY

NIK Viveza 2.0 Plugin Window

Here we are running the Viveza plugin on our image and applying STRUCTURE only!  We do this by not creating a control point and just running up the structure control.  The reason for this is to define the contrast edges before we do the channel swap.


Running The Red & Blue Channel Swap

Elements + Channel Mixer RED Channel

Select the RED channel and move the red slider down to 0, the blue channel up to 100% and the Green channel up to give the tree leaves a pink/red color.

Elements Plus Channel Mixer, Blue Channel

Next we change the the channel to the blue and run the red slider up to 100% and the blue down to 0.  Do not worry that the overall image is really super saturated, we will fix that later.  Now, you should have yellow/red trees and a blue sky.  Naturally finished and treated wood can take on a greenish cast as well.


Hue & Saturation Adjustments

Adjustment Of Hue & Saturation

Here we will select the CYAN, RED,  YELLOW & BLUE color channels and adjust the Saturation Levels and Hue levels to create an overall image that is within the color range that we like.  You can also select the MASTER channel and lower the overall saturation if it is just too punchy!  I do this specifically to get the shade and contrasts of the blue skies correct.


NIK Viveza 2.0 Overall Image Adjustments

NIK Viveza 2.0 Master Adjustments

OK, here is where the real work is done. Look closely at this image. Notice the little circles all over the image?  Well, these are adjustment points that I have selected all over the image and individually adjusted for saturation, contrast, structure and hue.  Some of the areas like the wooden dock and buildings I simply ran the saturation all the way down to give me monochrome while adding contrast and structure.  Other areas I added reds and structure as well.  This is where you really create your Faux Color image!  It is all very easy to do but I warn you, keep a box of tissues close at hand because this process involving the NIK filters and adjustment points will get you so excited that you will mess yourself!  They really have to be seen to be believed.

That is all there is to the entire process.  All in all the entire editing process took about 3 entire minuites!  Very fast and very easy.

Please let me know what you think and again a BIG thank you to Martin Young for his input about Elements Plus!


10 comments on “Tipster #3: Faux Color IR Post Processing In Adobe Elements 9

    • They are not the same. The XDP is a black filter that stops all visible light and generates stark white leaves and purple skies. It allows only UV/deep IR to pass. The super blue is a dual passband lighting correction medium blue filter that passes uv and some visible and a lot of IR which will basically create in camera faux color IR images with no post processing. You can purchase a 074B filter from Tiffen to get VERY close to this! Look up the posts here on the 047 to check it all out!

      • So, if I got the I got the Super Blue conversion at Lifepixel, would I be able to fully use an XDP or Hoya R72 on my lenses? Any other insight on other filters may or may not be used with this conversion? Are in camera faux color images lacking in any way as compared to using an IR filter and doing the channel swap?

      • Perhaps yes on the XDP, it will depend on life pixels uv crossover on the low end. But yes on a 720nm filter. It should also work with a 590nm filter as well! The super blue will pretty much block anything above 790nm though. You can reasonably expect good results with any filter from 500nm to 750nm.

    • I just took a look at the video tutorials on the LifePixel website. It looks like it is better to choose a “Super Color” conversion than a “Super Blue” conversion because there could be color finging on the “Super Blue.” Also, it looks like the same B&W effect can be achieved with the “Super Color” as an IR filter with some basic Photoshop adjustment. Is my understanding correct? Do you know if the look of a Blue Channel Swapped Hoya R72 image can also be replicated in Photoshop when starting with a “Super” or “Enhanced” Color conversion? If so, it would seem like you could get the exact same end result as any wavelength filter to the right of a 590nm conversion. Am I missing something?

  1. Pingback: The Grist Mill Trip – Day 1 « Infrared Atelier's Infrared Photography Blog

  2. Hello. I really like to watch Your blog. And i REALLY enjoy the IR-photography.

    And I have a question about post-processing:
    Is it possible for You, to made some advices in IR-postpro in another then Adobe editors?

    Like GIMP or Cinepaint or Win/Mac software such as PhotoLine32?

    You see, the Adobe software is expensive (if buy it legally ^_^ not to pirated copy )

    Another software either free or cheap enough and great functionality (as photoline32 – Lab and other stuff in it)

    Thank You!

    • For B&W IR processing any editor will work great! Faux color requires the ability to SWAP the red and blue channels as well as adjusting saturation and hue on all od them. If you have this ability in your editor then you are ok. You can also purchase Adobe Elements 9 for $79 on amazon then add the Elements Plus plugin ($20) to give it the channel capability.

  3. Great info. I’ve been using Elements+ with PSE7 for about 3 years now… ever since I got started in digital IR.

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