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How Do I Choose the Best Infrared Film?

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  • Written By: Bryce Clinton
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Choosing the best infrared film is relatively easy, mainly because there aren't that many infrared films on the market. Your decision will be based on a number of factors, including film speed, film size, and whether you plan to shoot in black and white or color. The type of effects you are looking to achieve with your photography may also factor into your decision, as will price. Finally, you will need to determine which brand to choose from among the limited number of companies that produce IR film (infrared film).

Infrared photography had a spike in interest that has waned somewhat in recent years, making it harder to find the same variety of infrared film that was once available. Several manufacturers, notably Kodak, stopped producing several of their most popular infrared films, including one variety considered to be among the best and most sensitive IR film. Nonetheless, and despite the advancing infrared technology for digital photography, a selection of film can still be purchased.

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When buying infrared film, it's important to know whether your camera is compatible with it. You might need to consult your manual or do some research. Many conventional cameras can be used, but it might require a few tricks or modifications. Also, some 35mm cameras are known to have sensor holes that will make IR film foggy. Moreover, it's important to buy the right filters to use in conjunction with the right film, especially if you want to achieve specific color or contrast effects.

The difference between shooting infrared photography in color or black and white is a necessary consideration when shopping, particularly in terms of several factors, namely, application, aesthetics, and ease of development. Color has certain advantages for scientific use, and the results of using it are more vibrant, varied, and in some cases surreal than what can be achieved with black and white. Using black and white IR film, on the other hand, creates a cooler, more eerie kind of image, with more pronounced contrasts; however, black and white is harder and more time consuming to develop than color IR film, and some black and white films can be very easily scratched during development.

Film speed and size are additional considerations. Most films are high or medium speed, and sizes have become more limited than they used to be because of the discontinuation of many infrared films around the turn of the last century. Many larger sizes and some high-speed varieties disappeared from the market, including Kodak black-and-white HIE (High Speed Infrared), which was popular in part because of its lack of a halation layer on the film, which produced an usual glowing effect that could not be easily duplicated.

In conclusion, it takes a little research to find the ideal infrared film, but not too much. It's useful to read up on the process and to study the different results created by different films. Knowing how to use the film is important: for example, some IR films can only be loaded in the dark, which creates and additional limitation. For those trying to make the best choice, a decent information can still be found online.

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