I got my Canon 6D way back in 2013, and though it served me well for years, it eventually got replaced with a Canon 5D Mk IV and more recently the Canon R5. But rather than let that obsolete old 6D rot away on a shelf, I decided to give it a whole new lease on life, converting it to shoot infrared images and getting some truly awesome photos as a result.
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Converting a camera to shoot infrared means the sensor is altered to be sensitive only to infrared light. Though it’s possible to do this yourself if you’re especially good with electronics, I opted to use a service in the UK called Pro Tech Photographic. For £320 (around $398), Pro Tech converted my obsolete full-frame 6D to shoot 720nm infrared. In the US, Kolari Vision offers a similar service. Its reviews are good, but I haven’t used the company myself.
Infrared light is invisible to the naked human eye, but through the camera it can result in some weird and wonderful effects. Most notably any green grass or foliage will look especially bright — almost white — as the chlorophyll in greenery reflects a lot of infrared light back to the camera. Typically you’ll see two types of infrared photography. The first is called false color (seen above), where the raw infrared file is processed in Photoshop using channels to create a color image with dramatic blue skies and often white foliage. It’s a surreal look, and some of my false color images look OK.
But the real joy for me is in taking black-and-white infrared images. Infrared photography seems to work best under harsh sunlight — often in the middle of the day when the sun is casting strong shadows. These are conditions that photographers typically avoid, especially for landscapes, but infrared thrives here, delivering contrasty images with blue skies that become almost black, emphasizing any fluffy clouds in the sky.
Converting these shots to black and white creates dramatic images with punchy contrast that I absolutely love. I took the camera on a recent trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and I’m so pleased with the landscape shots I got (seen throughout this article and in my YouTube video seen above), preferring them over the color versions I took on my much more expensive Canon R5.
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And sure, I can convert those color images to regular black and white, but they won’t look the same as black-and-white images taken in infrared and will lack the ethereal look that IR can achieve.
Strictly speaking, it is possible to achieve the same effect using infrared filters that attach to the front of your lens. However, these work by blocking all light except infrared, meaning very little light is allowed through the lens. As a result, you need to use long exposures — often several seconds — to get enough light for a good photo. With filters, you’ll also need to use a tripod, or any movement in the scene (such as trees blowing in the breeze) will be blurry.
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my experiments with infrared photography so far and I’m really looking forward to doing more over the summer. If you’ve never tried it but are into your black-and-white imagery, I definitely recommend considering a conversion. It’s not super cheap, but it’s a great way of putting that otherwise obsolete camera to new use and enjoying the creative thrill of taking photos in a brand new way.