Digital Infrared Photography with the Nikon D70 is pretty straight forward when you take advantage of the power of its custom settings. Here I’ll show you what camera settings I use for my digital infrared photos using the D70.
Digital Infrared photography with the Nikon D70
Assuming you have your tripod (pretty well a MUST for perfect infrared shots), and the infrared filter of your choice (best to use an Wratten 89B or equivalent, such as a Hoya R72), you can create custom settings in your D70 to maximize its infrared potential.
Taking the time to do this upfront will help eliminate some of the uncertainties of digital infrared photography, which can result in only an ok photo, rather than a WOW! photo.
As always with these kinds of things, there is no one right way to achieve results. But these steps are the ones that I have had the most success with, using my D70 so far.
- Image Type
- White Balance
- Color Space
- Bracketing Exposure
I know many people will disagree with me on this, but I really prefer to shoot RAW for digital infrared. Nikon’s NEF format is so versatile, and if for some reason you are in a spontaneous kind of photographic situation, and haven’t saved your settings, or don’t have time to adjust them, you can still get a really fine infrared image – with a little help from Photoshop, or other image editing program that supports the NEF format – if you’re using RAW.
See the Photoshop tutorial on this for the post processing process (sorry for the alliteration!)
You can play with increasing the ISO, but I’ve had the best results when I leave it at 200. Otherwise the noise is too great – for my taste, anyway. I do a fair amount of post processing in Photo shop after exposure, so noise is going to be a problem, if it is magnified.
And unlike infrared film, where the graininess is part of the ethereal quality of the photography, digital infrared “grain” or noise really degrades your image. If you want to add the look of grainy film, do it in Photoshop, or other image-editing program. We’ll see how a little later.
In my experience, setting a custom white balance is a key to GOOD Digital Infrared Photography with the Nikon d70. Because you are using a filter that blocks most “regular” light, the camera’s internal white balancing mechanism cannot provide you with an accurate measurement of the colour temperature of your environment. Since foliage reflects IR light, making it the brightest, whitest part of your photo, you’ll need to “calibrate” your D70 to let it know that visible light green is equal to infrared white.
There are a couple of ways to do this. Again the D70 is a very versatile little creature, so try a few and see which works best for the kind of photos you are taking.
NUMBER 1: The simplest white balance method using the D70 is to open your menu, use the control button to flip down to the white balance setting, and change it to fluorescent +3. Since for infrared photography you’ll be most likely shooting in bright sunlight with a “red” filter, adding some false color correction in the camera, seems to give your final IR images more “punch.” Others have found the incandescent setting works too.
NUMBER 2: Another way to adjust white balance for digital infrared photography with the Nikon D70 is to take a photo of green grass at midday in full sun. Just the grass – no feet, no trees, no sky. Just point your camera at the grass looking straight down, and click! Now, in your menu, you’ll set the white balance from this photo. So, go to your menu, select white balance, >preset> use photo>select image> use your control dial to navigate to the image of the grass (hopefully it is the only one on your card to make it easy). Your menu should now say “this image>set.” Now you’re ready to shoot infrared!
NUMBER 3: The last way but in my opinion, the best way to adjust your white balance is to do it manually, using the “preset” function. The Nikon user guide has some information about doing this, but here are the basics.
1) rather than using a standard 18% gray card to calibrate your white balance, use a patch of green grass in full sunlight. Set up as if you were taking a photo of the grass, looking straight down (at your feet, but without your feet in the shot).
2) select “measure” in the preset menu, or press the WB button and rotate your main command dial (the one on the back) until PRE is displayed in your control panel. Its pretty tiny so look hard!
3) release the WB button, and then press it again until the BIG PRE icon in the control panel starts to flash.
4) frame the grass so it fills the viewfinder and press the shutter release all the way down. Your camera will now measure the value for the white balance and use this value when the preset white balance is selected.
5) if the camera was successful, GOOD will flash in the control panel. To return to shooting mode, just press the shutter halfway down.
I use the Adobe RGB color space for a greater range of colors. To set up the D70 for Adobe RGB, go to the menu, and choose Optimize images>Custom>Color mode> II Adobe RGB.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t use Adobe products for your image processing or editing, it is an industry standard, so you’ll still get full versatility from this color space.
Bracketing your Exposure
Setting up your D70 to bracket shots is easy. While you can make adjustments to the EV for each bracketed shot, most of the time I find that the default works well for infrared photos.
All you have to do is select the BKT button on the back of the camera, and use the Main Command Dial to flip to bracket mode. Check in the control panel to make sure bracketing is set.
SOME OTHER IDEAS TO HELP YOU TAKE AWESOME DIGITAL INFRARED PHOTOGRAPHY WITH THE NIKON D70
Using Nikon D70 Digital Vari-programs and digital infrared photography
The D70 comes with a selection of mode pre-sets: auto, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, Night landscape, and night portrait. Try these settings with your Infrared filter and tripod.
The nature of sunlight; the angle of its rays; the amount of haze, smog and cloud; your altitude; your location on the planet; all factor into how your final infrared image will turn out.
Experimenting with these settings can yield some very cool results!
See the Photo shop tutorials for more about digital infrared workflow.
See my award winning digital Infrared Photograph submitted to the PPOC Manitoba Print Salon.
Also check out Digital Infrared Photography with the Nikon D70 at dpreview, for inspiration form other d70 users.