Infrared Simulation Using Nik

Realistic Infrared simulation using the Nik Collection. Watch the video to find out how.
Realistic Infrared simulation using the Nik Collection. Watch the video to find out how.

I have seen many articles and videos over the years suggesting ways to create infrared simulations using regular colour photographs. Most of these fall short, possibly because the authors don’t appreciate the true characteristics of infrared. One example I read simply suggested using the channel mixer in Photoshop and using it to turn a blue sky black.

The best tool I have seen for simulating the effects of Infrared film a standard colour image is Alien Skin Exposure. This is also one of the tools I turn to when converting my digital infrared images as it allows me to simulate the halation effect often seen with Kodak HIE film. Unfortunately, as great a tool as Exposure is, it’s costly.

So how can we create a simulation using Nik plug-ins? Well, there is an Infrared film simulation in Nik Color Efex Pro but it’s not very convincing and doesn’t produce the halation effect. Nik Silver Efex Pro did once have an optional preset you could download from the Nik website but this has been removed. In any case, the preset wasn’t very believable.

This video features my simple solution based on combining a couple of filters in Nik Color Efex with a monochrome conversion in Silver Efex Pro. It’s quick to do and is quite effective.

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4 thoughts on “Infrared Simulation Using Nik

  1. Very good tutorial Robin, worked well on the image I tried. Great thing is that as the NIK Collection is free and will work as standalone tools, no need for Lightroom/Photoshop (although recommended for getting the RAW image ready for use) really worth giving it a try.

  2. dear Robin, an interesting suggestion, but a true ir image is somewhat different. The point, in my opinion is that ir penetrates fog and haze and has some qualities you cannot simulate. what is your experience using ir filters over a native sensor? i did this with my pen pm1, and it works with exposures of several seconds. however it requires some post processing because contrast is poor. Thanks for sharing

    1. Your point about the Haze etc is a good one. But for those who can’t afford or don’t want to convert a camera, its a good alternative. Most cameras now have a relatively good IT cut filter so the exposure times end up being quite long. 720nm filters work OK with the Olympus Micro 43 cameras but give exposure times ranging from several seconds depending of course on the ISO and aperture. I have also tried an 850nm filter on the EM5 but that gives nothing at all. I suspect the cut filter in the camera is removing all IR light at this wavelength. I haven’t tried something like a 665nm filter which may work and should give slightly faster shutter speeds. But at this wavelength you might find you are getting mostely visible light rather than IR light in the image. If you have an old film camera you could also try the Rollei IR film. It works well and is a lot of fun.

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