More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Infrared ‘Before and After’ at Walt Disney World

Kent Phillips

by , Photographer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

I’ve been surprised by the level of technical interest in near infrared digital photography as a result of recent shots I’ve posted from Walt Disney World. It’s a novel look and I’ve really enjoyed playing with it and learning about it, but trying to explain it can be a bit confusing. In posts and responses I’ve talked about “false colors” and the way a scene looks with and without the infrared filter, but since a picture is worth a thousand words I figured today I’d let the pictures do most of the explaining.

Imagination! Pavilion at Epcot

I snapped this quick shot of the Imagination! Pavilion at Epcot the other day while checking out the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I chose this location rather than any of the festival’s gorgeous flower beds and topiaries since the process eliminates all color anyway. Also, by shooting here I wasn’t going to end up with my backside in the middle of hundreds of guests’ pictures (definitely not my best side, by the way). As you can see, the original color photo makes for a fairly average snapshot.

Imagination! Pavilion at Epcot

Once a #87 infrared filter – which blocks all visible light – is added, things change dramatically. The exposure time plummets from 1/8000 of a second to a full 30 seconds at f/2.8 at 400 ISO (for you photo types, that’s a drop of 18 stops), allowing the moving clouds and fountains to blur. The resulting colors also change dramatically and everything becomes a monochromatic pink. Different cameras’ sensitivities to near infrared light will yield different looks and exposures, however. These false colors, like seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, do have a surreal beauty to them.

Imagination! Pavilion at Epcot

Once you’ve got a color infrared image, it’s a fairly simple process to put it into a computer and remove the color information using any of a number of image editing applications. I love the resulting contrast of the sky and clouds coupled with the ethereal look of the foliage. The black-and-white also helps give it a classic landscape feel.

It’s a fun way of looking at the world and is strangely addictive, and I seem to have a tendency to get carried away with it. I need to make a mental note to stop before all of my colleagues show up with tissues and duct tape to stage an intervention.

There’s a knock at my door. Gotta go…


  • I don’t know if you recall, but I was the one on your last post who was having trouble with IR on the D7000. My conclusion was the same as yours–that the new IR filter of the D7000 is just too good for any reasonable exposures. I tried using the filter on my wife’s D40 and the results were much better, but I ultimately concluded that I didn’t want to mess with a tripod while doing this (I find I use my B+W 1.8 ND filter rarely during the daytime for the same reason), so I bought a modified D70. Got it relatively cheap on eBay, so I can’t complain! Heading to Disneyland in a couple of weeks and WDW for Destination D after that, so I should have plenty of chances to put it through its paces!

  • I love these IR photos. thanks for sharing the process with us!

  • Thanks for posting all your infrared photos. You’ve inspired me to purchase one for my Canon G11. I’ve played around with post-shot infrared programs but they just don’t have the same effect. I’ll have the filter for my next WDW trip in a few months. Yea!!

  • That’s cool…my Evo has that app too

  • Thanks for the info and great pictures, Kent.

    I have been interested in IR photography for a while but haven’t purchased a filter yet. I have a Canon T1i and an XS and I know that I need a 58mm thread but my options for IR filters are confusing.

    I found a 720nm, 760nm, 850nm and 950nm. I understand the 950nm would be great for the photo you shot above but is there any one filter that I could use for most IR photos?

    I’m looking to do landscape IR photography but will the 950nm still be the best choice if it’s a cloudy day?

    I’d appreciate any advice you could offer.

    • The Tiffen #87 filter I used blocks all light below 750 nm and lets in about half of the light at the 790 nm level. Anything that blocks light beyond 800 nm will likely be better suited more for technical applications. I’d be tempted to stick with the 760 given the four choices you listed.

  • Kent, I’d like your suggestion on my camera if it’s okay. I have a Canon Rebel T1i and have a pretty difficult time getting WB and exposure correct on nighttime shots. In complete manual mode, my f/ only gets down to f/4.5. Am I missing something on how to get it any lower or is it just the nature of the T1i?

    • Keith (and everyone else who posted comments after): My apologies on the delay in replying, but I just got back from hanging out with Donald Duck in Seattle (what a cool city!) for Disney Cruise Line’s announcement of their 2012 itineraries.

      As far as your camera, I’m afraid I’m not particularly Canon literate (gear-wise we play for the ‘other team’ if you will).

      However, regarding color balance on nighttime shots, that can be tricky depending on the lighting. If there are multiple light sources affecting your shot, each one may very well have its own unique color. Tungsten (older-style light bulbs) will look orange, flourescents often appear greenish and compact flourescent bulbs can look orange with a little green thrown in. (Don’t even get me started on sodium vapor.) Most often these different sources don’t play well together, though evening shots that have a little daylight left in addition to tungsten sources can look quite nice. Your best bet is to try and shoot images with a single light source and set your color balance accordingly.

      Night time exposures are also tricky because there’s such a tremendous range in the brightness within the scene. If you shoot in RAW format and have an application that allows you to work with the RAW files, you gain tremendous latitude to adjust both color and exposure after the fact. There are many good online tutorials for working with RAW files.

      The minimum f-stop on your lens is probably dictated by the focal length you’re using (if it’s a zoom lens). The 18-55 mm lens that comes with it has minimum apertures of f/3.5 – 5.6. The f/3.5 aperture will be on the 18mm end of it and f/5.6 will be on the 55mm end of it, so if you can only get it down to f/4.5, you’re likely in the middle somewhere as far as focal length. A good tripod will help a lot, especially because many nighttime beauty shots will actually need a little more depth of field (and hence a smaller aperture and longer exposure).

      Hope that helps a little bit. Sorry again for the delay in replying.

  • I think it’s really interesting the way the IR filter smooths the appearance of the water.

  • I used the Tiffen #87 on the D40 today and it looked just dandy. Hope you get blue skies and puffy white clouds!

  • Wow! That was very sweet of you to take the time out of your day to go test your filter on a D40 and post back about it. I’ve been trying to decide between the Tiffen #87 and the Hoya R72 filter for my camera, since I was concerned the sensor might not be able to handle the slightly higher nm range of the #87 well.

    Thank you so much, Kent. I really appreciate it!

  • these are really great shots!! it’s awesome to see the parks in a different light :>

  • I used to do this with film, but alas, infrared film has gone the way of the Dodo bird. So I’m off to hunt down an IR filter!

  • Thank you SO much for this post with more details! Your beautiful photos have inspired me to pick up a IR filter for my DSLR. I’m trying to learn everything I can about how to shoot near infrared since I’ve simply fallen in love with how it looks. (Really, I’m not sure the sensor in my D40 will even pick up near IR well, but I’m super-excited to try it!)

    • I’m glad you’re going to give it a try. I think you should be in good shape as long as you get the right filter. I just put my IR filter on a D40 in our office and did a quick test shot and it looks great. In fact, I was able to get a good exposure in full sun at 4 seconds at f/2.8 at 200 ISO, which is four stops better than the camera I was using! Good luck!

  • I like the effect the long exposure had. Neat shots – thanks for sharing!

  • The hidden mickey in the cloud really adds to the shot 🙂

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