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Shooting Film

This section explains the supplies you need and how to shoot the film. Finding equipment is half the battle. If you find all the technicalities confusing, follow the "foolproof method" at the bottom of the page. For subject ideas, visit the about page.

1. Gathering supplies


Your best bet is the granddaddy of all modern cameras -- the simple manual SLR camera. The older the better, as many recent cameras use infrared beams to determine how far to advance the film as you take pictures. Some modern cameras also have bumpy pressure plates and windows to see the film type. These features can destroy infrared film.

Old manual cameras are easy to find at yard sales and flea markets for $50 or so. I used a Pentax K-1000 to shoot film for this website.


If you don't use a filter when shooting infrared film, the film will look flat and monotone.

Each filter has a color and number associated with it. The redder and darker the filter, the more visible light it blocks. If you use a very dark filter, you can't see through the viewfinder and you have to use long exposure times. These are the best filters for infrared film:

Filters cost anywhere from $25 to $140. They come in specific sizes for different lenses, so make sure you try yours on or match your camera type with it before buying. Most filters simply screw on the top of the lens.


Only a few photography companies are still selling infrared film because it's a niche market. In fact, the hardest part of the entire process might be finding the film! Try online specialty stores. Today, you can use one of three infrared films:

Important Note: You must keep infrared film in the refrigerator (55 degrees Fahrenheit or colder). Take it out and place it somewhere with room temperature an hour before use. All infrared films are extremely light sensitive, to be especially careful not to expose it to light.

2. Loading

Load and unload all infrared film in complete darkness or a rubber changing bag. You can't see infrared light, but it will fog your film. Ilford's SFX 200 doesn't require total darkness. If you have trouble loading film, you might want to try it with a throwaway roll beforehand.

3. Shooting

Your camera's settings are calibrated to measure visible light, not infrared light. Filters also affect the amount of light absorbed by the film. This is probably the most confusing part of infrared film -- it doesn't obey the laws of photography! Here are how camera settings are different from shooting normal film:


ISO or ASA is a measure of film's sensitivity to light. The film type and filters used determine the setting.

You can adjust the ISO by turning a knob on the top of your camera to the right speed.

Film fact sheets always tell you the ISO for the film. For the three films discussed in this website, here are the ISOs: without filters:

Simple, right? Not quite. Filters also reduce ISO. The darker the filter, the smaller the ISO. CoCam's Infrared FAQ has a table of ISOs for popular infrared films with different filters. Here are some basic ones:


F-stop is a measure of the diameter of the aperture or "pupil" of the lens. It changes how much light the camera allows in during a shot.

You can adjust f-stop by moving the ring around the camera's lens.

Normally, photographers determine the f-stop by using their camera's light meter. The problem: don't pick up all infrared light. Try these two rules when shooting infrared:

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is simply the amount of time the shutter of the camera is open. The longer it's open, more light will reach the film. This, along with f-stop, controls the exposure of the film.

To make it easier, keep the Sunny 16 Rule in mind:


Finally, the last setting infrared messes up! Because infrared film records more wavelengths of light, the point of focus shifts slightly in a photograph. This isn't that big a deal in landscape photos.

Luckily, most old manual cameras have an infrared mark on the lens. Usually, it's a small red diamond on the focus ring of the lens.

To focus in infrared, simply nudge the focus a bit closer to the mark.

If your camera doesn't have one, just adjust it to a slightly closer focus than what your eye tells you.

The foolproof method

All of these settings can get confusing for beginners. I explain an easy way to start shooting infrared photographs in the slideshow below.

Created for MMC3260 by Jennifer Jenkins in 2008.