Custom White Balance for IR / by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

Hello Sun, it's so nice of you to drop by

Unlike many parts of the US, the Bay Area (and California in general) have been experiencing some early warm weather.  Warm to almost hot, I tend to run on the chilly side and even I was sporting a t-shirt yesterday.  More to the point, the weather has made getting outside with the camera much more appealing.

Alternative Processing Made Easy

I have been experimenting a bit with doing In Camera Custom White Balances while shooting with my Infrared Camera (near IR.)  Instead of just looking at a red image on the back of my camera's preview screen, I'm able to get a better idea of what my post processing is going to look like by simply creating a custom white balance profile.

Sure, I know that with a shift in temperature the skies are going to look red-orange to yellow and plants will look blue to white.  However, I found that this is actually very useful when shooting flowers as the petals and pollen reflect much more IR light than their leaves.  I was immediately able to see the difference not only simply represented in value differences in the grey scale (or red scale image?) but also in hue.  In fact, the some flowers reflect so much IR light that they appear nearly blown out in comparison to the leaves.  When creating the correct exposure for the petals, the rest the plant and background becomes underexposed and even towards blue.

To really emphasize the difference in IR reflective properties, it also helps to push the tint and switch the red and blue channels.  This allows the flowers to appear a cleaner white.

To really emphasize the difference in IR reflective properties, it also helps to push the tint and switch the red and blue channels.  This allows the flowers to appear a cleaner white.

Ready, Set...

  1. Find fresh foliage in full sun
    If possible, find the living plant that you desire to look white to base the balance off of
  2. Fill frame with greenery
    You're going to want to make sure that there aren't other objects in the image 
  3. Take an exposure at normal
    Shouldn't be under or over exposed as this doesn't provide an accurate levels range for the camera to match and correct to.
  4. White Balance
    For Canon Users: Go to Set Custom White Balance and select desired image
    For Nikon Users: You're actually going to do this step before taking the exposure
  5. Edit
    Process as desired.  If you don't like look of the Custom White Balance, you're not married to it if you're shooting in RAW.  Instead of having the White Balance to As Shot you can switch it back over to Daylight when processing and start at square one.
There is also always the option of using those IR images to create a rich black and white.

There is also always the option of using those IR images to create a rich black and white.