Photoshop Infrared Effects: how to make colour scenes look like infrared film

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.

Photoshop Infrared Effects: how to make colour scenes look like 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.

Our original shot

Our original shot

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

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 1

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 2

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 3

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 4

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 5

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 6

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 7

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 8

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.

 

Photoshop infrared effects step-by-step: step 9

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.

PAGE 1: Photoshop infrared effects steps 1-9
PAGE 2: Photoshop infrared effects steps 10-18

READ MORE

101 Photoshop tips you really have to know
25 free triptych photo frames for Photoshop
10 free photo grids for Photoshop
Digital camera effects from A-Z