Photoshop Infrared Effects: how to make colour scenes look like infrared film
In this tutorial we’ll show you a simple-to-follow technique for creating Photoshop infrared effects by shifting colours to give the retro photography effect of infrared film.
With wonderful colour shifts, glowing foliage and deep dark blues, infrared photography offers lots of creative potential.
Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but can be recorded either by using an IR filter, or by converting an old DSLR’s sensor (an irreversible modification). Typically, digital infrared images captured in this way are processed so that green foliage goes very bright and blue skies very dark.
Strictly speaking, the look of digital infrared in colour is not the same as that of infrared film, which records infrared as red, red as green, and green as blue. But it’s a look that’s become very popular for creative landscape photography.
You don’t need to make irreparable changes to your sensor or buy an IR filter to get this look though. You can get realistic digital infrared effects with a few tweaks in Camera Raw and a little help from Photoshop.
Here we’ll show you how to adjust tones to make the characteristic colour shifts of infrared photography. This encompasses several key tools and commands in Camera Raw, from interactive colour control with the Targeted Adjustment tool to subtle shifts in saturation with the Camera Calibration panel.
Infrared film usually requires a long exposure, so any movement within the scene becomes blurred. We’ll reflect this by adding blur to the clouds, using the Radial Blur filter in Photoshop to suggest a wonderful velvety motion.
Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step
01 Brighten the shadows
Launch Adobe Bridge, then navigate to your start image – click the Thumbnail in Bridge and choose Open in Camera Raw. In the Basic panel on the right of the interface set Shadows to +64 to brighten the foreground. Set Vibrance to +37 to boost the colour.
02 Drag the greens
Grab the Targeted Adjustment tool from the Tools palette, then right-click and choose Luminance. Click on the grass, then drag up to lighten the tones. You’ll see the Green and Yellow sliders in the HSL panel move – keep dragging until they’re both around +100.
03 Lower the saturation
With the Targeted Adjustment tool active, right-click and choose Saturation. This time click over the grass and drag downwards to lower the saturation of the Greens and Yellows. Keep dragging until the Yellows are about -90 and the Greens are around -80.
04 Adjust the Hue
Right-click again, but this time choose Hue. Click over the grass and drag to the left until the Yellow and Green sliders are set to -100. Now the grass will look bright and grey. The next step is to add a few more unusual colour shifts.
05 Tweak the colour profile
Click on the Camera Calibration panel and go to the Colour sliders. Set Shadows Tint to -23. In Red Primary, set Hue to +45 and Saturation to +15. In Green Primary, set Hue to -20 and Saturation to -76. In Blue Primary, set Hue to +5 and Saturation to +18.
06 Set a pin
Click on the Adjustment Brush in the toolbar, then go to the settings on the right. Set Exposure to -0.45 and make sure all the other sliders are set to their default values (double-click a slider to reset it). Click in the middle of the sky to set a pin.
07 Paint over the sky
At the bottom of the settings, click Show Mask, then click the colour box and choose a bright, recognisable colour. Set Brush Size to 10 and Feather to 100, then paint over the sky. If you need to erase any parts of the mask, check Erase and paint to remove it.
08 Boost the land
Check New at the top of the Adjustment Brush settings, then set Exposure to +0.55, Contrast to +18 and Shadows to +16. Click over the land to set a second pin, then check Show Mask and paint over the land. Use ] and [ to resize the brush tip as you paint.
09 Mask the grass
Check New again, then add another pin over the grass. Set Exposure to +0.20 and Shadows to +30, then click the Colour box and choose a light pink tone (set Hue to 327 and Saturation to +16). Zoom in closer, then paint over any areas that were green.
10 Make the foliage glow
Once again, check New, then set Exposure to +0.70, Clarity to +47 and leave the Colour box set to the pink tone. Check Show Mask, then paint over the trees and bushes in the background and the grass in the foreground to lighten them some more.
11 Darken the corner
Click on the Graduated Filter tool, then set Highlights to -38 and Shadows to -53. Drag a line from the sky in the top-left corner towards the horizon below and to the right to make a diagonal graduated filter that darkens that area. Grab the Zoom tool.
12 Make an S curve
Click on the Tone Curve panel and ensure you have the Point Tab selected. Click on the bottom left of the curve line and drag down slightly to darken tones. Click slightly higher on the line to add a second point and drag this upwards to boost contrast.
13 Warm the highlights
Click on the Split Toning panel and set the Highlight Saturation slider to 14 and the Highlight Hue to 59. Click the Lens Correction panel, go to the Colour tab and check Remove Chromatic Aberration to remove colour fringing around high-contrast edges.
14 Add some grain
To add the grain of infrared film, click on the Effects panel, then go to the Grain settings and set Amount to 37, Size to 31 and Roughness to 50. Go to Post-Crop Vignetting and set Style to Highlight Priority and Amount to -15 to darken the corners.
15 Apply some zoom blur
Hold Shift and click the Open Object button at the bottom right. Once open in Photoshop, go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur, then check Blur Method: Zoom and set Amount to 12. Move the centre point for the blur effect down and to the right, then hit OK.
16 Blur the clouds
Go to Window>Layers to access the Layers panel. Click on the white Smart Filter thumbnail below the layer. Grab the Brush tool, choose a soft-edged brush tip and set it to black. Paint over the land to hide the blur filter, restricting it to the clouds.
17 Darken the blues
Click the Create Adjustment Layer icon and choose Hue/Saturation. Select Blues and set Lightness to -73. In Reds set Saturation to +33 and Lightness to +62. In Yellows set Lightness to +61. In Magenta set Saturation to -50 and Lightness to +61.
18 Boost the tones
Click the Create Adjustment Layer icon and choose Curves. Make another s-shaped curve to boost the tones. The more pronounced the shape, the more contrast. Make any other changes you think are necessary with further Adjustment Layers.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013 at 5:30 pm and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.