Infra-red photography can produce the most amazing and surreal pictures, and if shooting with infra-red film is no longer practical, it is possible to achieve the same infra-red effect with software. The Color Efex Pro Infrared Film effect aims to reproduce the look of infrared films faithfully from regular digital images.

Technically, this  is not infrared – it just looks like it. Digital SLRs have infra-red filters in front of the sensor to restrict the sensitivity to visible light only, and to shoot true infra-red you need to get this filter removed by a specialist infra-red conversion company. Once you’ve done that, the camera can no longer be used for normal photography. Paradoxically it was in some ways easier in the days of film because you could just go out and buy infra-red  sensitive film, an infra-red filter (sometimes) and start shooting.

Not surprisingly, most D-SLR owners aren’t too keen to have their cameras hacked about. But the Color Efex Pro Infrared Film effect is, I think, a really good substitute. And if you try it out and like it, that might be a good time to go rooting through your loft to find that old D-SLR you don’t use any more and get it converted. (Even after you’ve done that, by the way, you’ll need to do some work on your photos in an image-editor to get that infra-red ‘look’.)

Color Efex Pro Infrared Film effect

I think this photograph will work well in infra-red because it has a strong, simple shape, a blue sky and a little foreground interest. In the infra-red spectrum, vegetation is very bright and blue skies are dark, so it will be interesting to see how well Color Efex Pro can reproduce this from a non-infra-red original.

01 Infrared presets

Color Efex Pro Infrared Film effect

The Color Efex Pro Infrared Film effect comes with a selection of presets for both black and white and colour images. I used to use Kodak High-Speed Infrared film, and this BW Soft preset comes pretty close to that film’s results, though it needs a lot more grain.

02 Infrared methods

Color Efex Pro Infrared Film effect

This time, though, I want to create a colour infra-red image, and I’m going to swap over to the manual tools to see if I can get close to the style I have in mind. I’ve done some research online, and the most popular effect (the one I like the most, at any rate) renders skies as blue and vegetation as white or pale red.

I’ve had a look through the filter’s ‘Method’ menu, which contains some pretty accurate simulations of colour infra-red film, but it’s this one (Method 5) that comes closest to the look I want for this picture. As it stands, though, it looks too dark and contrasty, so I’m going to need to do some work with the manual adjustments.