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Once you've shot an infrared image, that is once you've shot an image through an infrared filter, you'll end up with something like this. It is very, very red, and it needs a lot of work to get it into a finished useable image. As you can see, this particular camera filter combination did not really yield me any color at all. Sometimes, if your infrared filtering doesn't have to be so small, you will actually see some traces of other hues. This is so strongly red. We're not going to pull any other color out of it, so this is going to end up a black and white image.
I'm going to open this up in Photoshop. It is a RAW image just like any other, and I can edit it just like any other RAW image. I'm going to try to pull some of those over-exposed highlights down. They're not horribly clipped. It's just the red channel oddly enough, no surprise there. But I can still take that over-exposure out just to make sure that those highlights aren't blown out to complete white. There's not much else that I need to do here. I can play with contrast some, but when working with an infrared image, most of your adjustments are going to need to be localized.
You're going to be hard pressed to find global adjustments that do much for you. That said, I will up the clarity a little bit, and then I'm going to hit OK. I want to make sure that I'm working in 16-bit color just to give myself more editing latitude so that I don't start seeing tone breaks, and posterization. Then I'm going to open that up, and I'm ready to move on. First thing I need to do is get my black and white conversion going. There's no color correction that I need to work with here. I need to just go right into Gray Scale mode and start manipulating tone that way. I'm going to add a black and white adjustment layer.
If you are not familiar with working in black and white or working with the black and white tools in Photoshop, check out my Foundations of Photography: Black and White course. That will walk you through the whole thing as well as help you understand more the aesthetics of working in black and white. Normally, of course, I would be able to manipulate these color sliders to tone things in different ways. But really the only color in my image is red. Manipulating the red slider is going to change the brightness of everything, and none of these other color sliders are really going to do anything at all because everything in my image is just red.
I'm just going to take the default black and white recipe that Photoshop has given me, and work the rest of my adjustments using localized tools. I really like how vegetation goes white in infrared. That's a great thing to offset against a blue sky, so I would like to manipulate the sky some. I'm going to set up Levels Adjustment layer, and start to think about how I want to alter my sky. I need to be a little bit careful because of the vignetting in the image. I don't want to exaggerate that too much.
I'm just working my Levels Adjustments, and really only watching the sky. I'm not worried about what might be happening to the rest of the image because I'm going to then go back and locally apply this edit. So there's my adjustment. Now, I would like to fill my layer mask with black. So, with black as the background color, I'm going to hit Command+Delete. Again, I know I'm going through all of this very quickly, but this is all explained in Foundations of Photography: Black and White. If you're not familiar with working with Adjustment Layers, there are lots of other places in the lynda library where you can learn about these techniques.
So now what I would do is go in and paint my adjustment into my sky. I might, in a real editing workflow, I would probably choose to do this a little bit more refined. I'm just going to rush through this here so you can see the overall effect and what the techniques are, some of the techniques. So, what I might do here is use Refine Edge to grab all of the frilly stuff around the edge of the palm tree, and build a very, very accurate mask. Instead, I'll just quickly brush this in, so you can see the tonal effect that I would ultimately end up with. This might be a little aggressive.
I may not want the sky this dark, although I am kind of liking it, and I would need to go in obviously and retouch the bits of the palm fronds that I'm screwing up with this adjustment because they're getting some of this contrast adjustment that I want targeted on the sky. So, that's looking pretty good. I might want to go in and brighten up the clouds a little bit. I can do that with another Levels Adjustment layer this time simply manipulating the white point. There's not a lot of bright white in those clouds though, and as I brighten them up, I'm going to be exaggerating the noise, so I may not want to take them too far.
Again, I'll fill that with black and then go back and paint my mask on that adjustment layer to bring the clouds out. So, I could just keep working the image this way. This is straight black and white editing. It's no different than what you do on any other black and white image or what you do on a lot of color images. What I typically find with infrared stuff is you end up with very low contrast textures, so you'll do a lot of localized levels adjustment to put contrast back in the areas. Let's consider these palm fronds and the bark of the tree there.
That could be more contrasty, and it would have a lot more appeal. So, I'm going to just do basic contrast adjustment, and then I can actually probably keep that on the whole image. But instead, I think I will go localized and edit each palm tree individually with its own contrast adjustment. What I like about this is it's taking some of that kind of gray haze off of the palm fronds, and it's giving me nice texture on them.
So again, you're often going to find a strong loss of contrast when you're working in infrared, now that my mask is in place, I can play with exactly what kind of contrast adjustment I want. So, this is going to be a pretty regular thing that you're going to need to do particularly working with vegetation is go in and make localized contrast adjustments to put some punch back into the textures on your vegetation and maybe on all of your subject matter. So, we're far from a finished image here, I just wanted you to see the types of edits you're going to do.
This is straight black and white image editing. There's not much else to it. If you have a camera set up that doesn't block out all your color, then you might want to preserve a little color and play with that somehow. But most of the time, you'll be working simply in black and white using perfectly normal black and white image editing techniques.
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