Creating Infrared Portraits


I have been shooting with a converted infrared camera for a few years, mostly landscape.  I’m always struck by the other-worldly quality of infrared portraits, but mine have always turned out on the vampire side, and a bit creepy.  A few weeks ago, I took a 30 minute 1:1 tutorial with Dan Wampler from LifePixel, and he set me on a new course for this journey.Photo Capture

There is one important thing to do when capturing people in infrared, get enough light into their eyes.  Often in my portraits the eyes would look cold and black.


Dan suggested if you are not able to get enough light into the eyes, to shoot using an LED ring flash.  I have a ring flash at home, so I will have to corral my available, and hopefully willing, husband and give it a try.

Photo Processing

One thing Dan taught me was “three-dimensional” processing.  Taking the image apart in segments, or pieces, and treating each segment independently.  Before the tutorial, I was focused on global processing.  Now I treat the skin, eyes, hair, etc. all separately.


Dan has written an excellent Processing Infrared Portraits blog.

My big takeaways:

  • Balance sharp and soft.  I sharpened the hair, eyebrows, and eyes.  I kept the skin soft.
  • Balance color.  I desaturated the color tones in the skin, and sometimes changed the color in the eyes and hair.
  • Balance brightness.  The unlock for me was to make the eyes brighter using a selective adjustment

Adjustment layers, masks, and varying opacity brushes are the keys to creating infrared portraits.  At some point I’d love to do a line up with a variety of women and really understand how hair color, and make up shows up (or not) in infrared images.


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