REVIEW: Rocky Nook’s “Digital Infrared Photography”

Digital Infrared Photography

Rocky Nook has released another book, Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher. This book is slim at just over 100 pages (compare that to Painting the Web, which comes in at 650 pages) but it’s a gorgeous book with information that any photographer curious about infrared photography will enjoy!

A strange and alien photography

Infrared photography is an interesting field in which cameras capture non-visible light in the infrared part of the light spectrum. This captures a light that is unseen but can produce very intriguing photographs when processed by the camera. For example, plants are green in normal light but infrared light goes through chlorophyll and is then reflected by the water in the plant, which means plants appear white in infrared photography. This and other amazing acts of physics open up a new way of seeing the world, and infrared photography is unmistakeable.

Digital Infrared Photography covers the basics of infrared light theory, equipment, aspects of shooting infrared photography, and using the digital darkroom. The book is hardcover and small enough that it can be slipped into a camera bag fairly easily, though it’s not really a book to be used in the field. It’s more for getting the basics down and also for inspiration—there are photos throughout the book, and they are impressive.

I was thankful that the section on theory had just the right amount of information on infrared light: some books spend too many pages on dry science, and others not enough, but Cyrill wrote the perfect amount of technical information. Same thing with the sections on cameras: they’re small but everything one needs to shoot infrared photography is there.

Probably the most useful section of Digital Infrared Photography for both novices and experts alike is the “Practical Aspects” section. Cyrill has given good coverage to infrared effects such as moonlight and soft focus, lightbrushing and spotlighting, dark and conventional flashes, and more basic information such as film speed, aperture, shutter speed and focusing. I wish there was more information in this section—some of these topics are only covered with a paragraph or two—but it’s still useful information, especially for photographers new to infrared.

I’m disappointed in the Photoshop section of Digital Infrared Photography because there is no coverage of Camera Raw. Even many beginners with a basic SLR are shooting in the RAW format, and this book could have covered a basic Camera Raw conversion, but it doesn’t (it does mention RAW much earlier in the book and recommends it as a photo file format). Other than that, Digital Infrared Photography does a good job of giving basic Photoshop techniques to the reader. The techniques covered do require a familiarity with Photoshop, but they are not difficult or obscure and they are mostly time-tested techniques. The step-by-step instructions for using layers to improve tonal range is a good lesson. A demonstration of HDR would also have been welcome here, but it isn’t mentioned. Maybe this is because the techniques shown in Digital Infrared Photography are demonstrated with Photoshop CS2 (which is fairly old) and CS3 (which has recently been upgraded to CS4).

Conclusion

Digital Infrared Photography is an excellent book for someone new to digital infrared photography. It would also be great for a photographer who hasn’t expressed an interest in infrared but enjoys being creative with digital photography. Photographers who are already experienced with infrared photography will have less use for this book, but may find a few new tricks in its pages.

Digital Infrared Photography
Cyrill Harnischmacher
Published by Rocky Nook
Rating: 9/10