Color Infrared Techniques using Capture One Pro 22
Capture One Pro22 is the best editor that I have encountered for its ability to manipulate infrared photos. It has superior white-balancing capabilities and very advanced hue-shifting. I’ll attempt to show you how to take advantage of this power. You will need the “Pro” version to do these techniques.
What I’m going to demonstrate isn’t very straightforward, but once Capture One is set up, it’s very easy to use on subsequent photographs.
In my article, I’m starting with a camera that has been converted to pass 590nm infrared. This wavelength passes a little bit of visible (color) light, in addition to infrared. My camera sensor also has an anti-reflection coating (in the infrared region), which greatly expands the number of suitable lenses available. Cameras that don’t have this coating (or cameras just using an infrared lens filter instead) often have the dreaded hotspot in the middle of the picture, especially when the lens is stopped down beyond about f/5.6. My camera was IR-converted by Kolari Vision.
If you are using long-wave infrared filtering, such as 850nm, then you won’t be able to perform these color hue-shifts. In that case, you should stick to black-and-white operations or a plug-in like Silver Efex.
IR 590nm with separate sky/foliage hue shift
Most cameras cannot be configured for correct infrared white balance, so it’s important that your photo editor has these capabilities. Most editors don’t have a sufficient color temperature range for infrared, but Capture One does.
Before manipulating infrared colors, it’s important that you first get a good white balance in your pictures. The easiest way to get a good white balance is to start with a photo that contains either a white card or a neutral grey card that can be used by the editor to designate a neutral tone. You only need a single shot that represents typical lighting, where the colors in this photo can be used for other shots with similar lighting.
If you don’t have a white or grey card, you can often use a subject such as a sidewalk or a patch of clean snow to supply a neutral tone in your photograph.
Select the Eyedropper tool
Infrared colors before white balance
Infrared colors after clicking with WB eyedropper
The photo now has a proper white balance after selecting a neutral color (such as the snow) with the eyedropper tool. Foliage typically will have a blue hue, and the sky has a “tobacco” color.
Click this “Presets” icon to save the custom white balance
After selecting the neutral spot in the photo with the eyedropper, click the “3 horizontal lines” (Presets) icon shown above to get to a white-balance menu. Select “Save Custom Preset…”
Save your preset for use with other photos
You should save this custom white balance for use with other photos later. For those other suitable photos with similar lighting, just click the same “Presets” icon and then select the named white balance. This is very handy for photos that don’t have any neutral subjects in them to select for a white balance. As you move the mouse pointer to different saved custom white balances in the menu, you can see the effect in the photo.
For infrared white balance choices, you may want a photo taken in sunshine and another taken in shade. If you use different IR filters with various wavelengths, then you’d need to save white balances for each different filter, too. Remember to save those custom white balances with useful names. If you later change your mind, Capture One lets you delete any unwanted custom white balance presets.
Adjust the sky hue
Color infrared photos almost always need to have a blue sky (sunny day!). As shown in the “neutral” white balance shot above, the sky takes on a “tobacco” hue. On a color wheel, the tobacco color is about 180 degrees from a “blue” hue.
It’s tricky to perform a 180-degree hue shift on the sky using Capture One Pro 22, but fortunately it only needs to be done once. Remember to perform a white balance on your shot before doing any hue shifts!
Capture One Pro 22 lets you perform hue shifts of up to 30 degrees in one operation. To get a 180-degree shift, you need to do a series of 6 hue shifts of 30 degrees each. These operations are performed in the Advanced menu of the Color Editor.
Click the eyedropper in Color Editor Advanced menu
Note that the color wheel just above the eyedropper tool in the Advanced Color Editor starts as a small pie-shaped wedge. After selecting the sky in your photo with the eyedropper, note that this wedge encompasses the colors that make up the “tobacco” color. You’ll want to mouse-drag this pie-shape to be about 90 degrees and also extend it out to the edge of the circle. If you have much variation in color with your sky, you may need to extend this 90-degree pie-wedge suggestion to be larger, such as 120 degrees.
Expand pie wedge range through 90 degrees
Slide the hue slider out to 30 degrees, which is the maximum shift allowed. You’ll note a shift in the hue of your sky in the photo, but it’s still nowhere near the blue color you’re after.
Repeat the operations of clicking the sky with the eyedropper tool, expanding the pie-shape to 90 degrees, and sliding the hue out to 30 degrees. You’ll typically need to do these operations a total of 6 times to get the 180-degree hue shift (30 * 6 = 180). You may want to alter the 180-degree shift to be slightly more or less, according to what you think is a proper blue color for the sky.
Adjust the foliage hue
Next, we’ll work on the foliage hue. Most people like the foliage color in infrared shots to look yellow-orange, but personally I like magenta on some shots. Note that yellow is about 180 degrees of a hue shift from the blue color of the white-balanced infrared shot.
If you’re after yellow-orange-looking foliage then all you have to do is repeat the steps above (6 times again). The color picker should get pointed at the foliage, instead of the sky.
If you would rather make the foliage look red or green or whatever, then simply adjust the hue shift to be more or less than 180 degrees total. Personally, I have made up several hue shift combinations, which include red, green, and yellow. Capture One lets you save your custom hue shifts with a name of your choosing!
3 Hue shifts of 30 degrees with color picker on foliage
To save these split-hue adjustments, you use the “Presets” icon just to the right of the Color Editor heading.
Saved the sky-blue, foliage-magenta hue shifts
Pick foliage with 30-degree shift 6 times total for ‘yellow’
Select Custom Saved Split-Hue Shift
You can now quickly select which hue-shift to try out on your other (white-balanced) infrared photos.
Pick which hue shift to use
To select a hue-shift, just click the “Presets” icon and then click on the desired preset. Your photo will show the hue-shift effect as you hover over each preset. Again, remember to white-balance your photo using your saved custom white balance preset before performing a hue shift.
After selecting a pre-defined custom hue shift, you can still tweak the hue slider in your Advanced Color Editor to fine-tune the colors to suit the shot.
It is pretty tedious to perform all of the operations to accomplish split-hue shifts, but fortunately they only have to be done once. After saving these shifts, you can simply select them in the Color Editor “Presets”.
I typically convert my infrared shots into black-and-white, but once in a while it’s fun to see what color can do.
I tweaked other settings to adjust saturation, vignetting, highlights, shadows, and clarity to add a bit of drama.