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Should you go with infrared photography for your wedding?

Black and white infrared photos seem more vibrant and electric.
Black and white infrared photos seem more vibrant and electric.
Photo courtesy David McGregor

Your wedding day can truly slip away in a flash, so you'll want the perfect collection of wedding photos to reflect on it. Today's brides are constantly looking for new, creative ways to express their individual styles in their photos.

Black and white, color and even sepia photos are considered the norm for wedding photography. Although it's been around for decades, infrared photography is becoming increasingly popular with modern brides as an alternative, ultra-chic style for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

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Never seen any examples of infrared photography? It's got a romantic, fantasy feel to it. Grass seems to be lightly dusted with a bright coat of snow, and leaves on trees give off a sparkling, white glow. Get ready for your science lesson on the next page. (It won't be too long or boring, we promise!)

The attractive, faint glow in infrared photos is caused by infrared radiation, a very tiny spectrum of light. Infrared film is able to capture what the human eye can't see; essentially, it picks up "invisible" light. Infrared film identifies radiant heat, and this heat, mainly a result of the chlorophyll in healthy plants, is what gives foliage and grass a captivating glow in photos.

Infrared photography is especially dazzling in outdoor photography, preferably at a time of day when there's an abundance of sunlight. Landscapes with dense foliage, lush expanses of grass and trees thick with leaves showcase infrared's dreamy glimmer, giving the background of a photograph a surreal quality. Other outdoor features, such as a stream or lake, can photograph beautifully, too. Light bouncing off ripples in the water makes an awe-inspiring backdrop for a wedding portrait!

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But infrared film makes the clouds and sky appear darker than they are in reality, and man-made structures, such as bridges and barns, will photograph dimly as well. If there's a source of light available (the sun or a flash), these structures and naturally dense elements like rocks, logs and tree trunks will also give off a slight glow.

A wedding portrait that combines a backdrop of contrasting elements -- say, a grassy field with a nearby stream and covered bridge -- results in a captivating composition. The various ways light reflects off of each element gives a photograph a mystical quality that can't be captured with any other type of film.

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If you're uncertain about going infrared all the way, your photographer can create a similar effect in some of your wedding photos using Photoshop.
If you're uncertain about going infrared all the way, your photographer can create a similar effect in some of your wedding photos using Photoshop.
Photo courtesy Allen Gunn Studios

While infrared film showcases landscapes beautifully, it doesn't capture small details as favorably. If the photographer takes any close-ups of you, your eyes can appear unnaturally black, and your skin tone may be distorted. Darker complexions tend to reflect light and will give off infrared's attractive glow, but lighter skin can photograph in very pale shades. Dark clothing will appear black, and lighter clothing will give off infrared's white glow. Earth-toned cosmetics will photograph well, but red lipstick photographs white. And if you're trying to hide a tattoo, keep it away from the camera: Infrared film showcases body ink clearly and distinctly.

Most modern digital cameras can be modified to recognize infrared light, but you'll want a knowledgeable photographer to capture your most special moments. Mastering infrared photography techniques is extremely difficult, and it takes a true professional to know what filters and which lenses to use, as well as what type of environment and elements will result in the best photograph. What's more, there are risks handling the film. Infrared film is significantly more delicate than other types, and it must be briefly stored in a cool, dry place prior to being developed. Once the photographer is ready to develop the film, it must be unloaded in total darkness, then processed immediately. If an amateur photographer fails to follow these precautionary measures, the film could develop incorrectly and every photograph would be lost.

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These liabilities shouldn't deter you if you love the style of infrared photography. Seek out an experienced photographer, and keep infrared photographs to a minimum. Most brides would agree that it's always best to have a variety of photographs to choose from!

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Sources

  • Beitzel, Richard. "Infrared Portrait Photography." Amherst Media, Inc. 2000.
  • Davidhazy, Andrew. "Infrared Photography." Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. (April 5, 2010).http://people.rit.edu/andpph/text-infrared-basics.html
  • Paduano, Joseph. "The Art of Infrared Photography." Amherst Media, Inc. 1998.
  • Rice, Patrick. "Digital Infrared Photography: Professional Techniques and Images." Amherst Media, Inc. 2005.
  • White, Laurie. "Infrared Photography Handbook." Amherst Media, Inc. 1995.

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