Infrared Wedding Photography by Michael Anderson Photography
Years ago we used film at weddings (call Michael if you don’t know what film is). We had a special Minolta X-700 35mm camera loaded with a 36 exposure roll of KODAK High-Speed Infrared Film. This specialty film and camera combination created both pretty and pretty unusual B&W infrared wedding photography.
We are still one of the very few wedding photographers in the country that create infrared wedding photography.
I personally loved the look of this specialty film. Black and white infrared wedding photos have a very dreamy look to them. We produced many beautiful prints in our wedding albums and our client’s wall decor. It was one of the many unique factors that set us apart from other Minneapolis wedding photographers.
Dare To Be Different
Joannie & I were also the first wedding photographers in Minnesota to create custom two-page panorama spreads in our client’s wedding albums. Sometimes using our infrared wedding photography images in the process.
Handling, focusing, exposing and developing of the infrared film was very tricky for a number of reasons.
First of all, you had to load and unload the film in total darkness. The camera body also had to be “light tight”. That sounds pretty obvious, but since infrared light is invisible to the naked eye, it could “sneak into” some camera bodies. It could even sneak right through the light seals on the camera body. You wouldn’t know it even happened until the film came back and you found out that it was “fogged” and basically ruined.
I always loaded the infrared film the night before a wedding. I waited until after sunset and had the lights turned off in the camera room (there are no windows in there), and I used a film changing bag!
So picture this; you’re sitting in total darkness, you’re trying to properly load film into a camera’s film sprockets while it’s in a black cloth bag that’s attached to you up to your elbows, totally doing it by touch and feel.
I used the same process in reverse (albeit much easier) when I took the film out of the camera to get it processed. Then you had to make sure that the lab knew what type of film it was, and that they had to handle it in total darkness too!
Stuff Can and Will Happen
There was one time when I thought the roll of infrared film might have become unattached from the film cassette while inside the camera. It was a rare occurrence, but sometimes the small piece of tape that attached the film to the cassette at the end of a roll of film would tear off, especially if you used a motor drive. So I took the whole camera in to have my lab unload it in total darkness and straight into processing right out of the camera.
The second challenge with infrared wedding photography was setting a proper exposure. Because there is no way of “measuring” the amount of infrared light in any scene (remember we humans can’t see it and our fancy light meters can’t see it either), so you had to guess on the exposure in the camera. In doing so I would “bracket exposures” by as much as four f-stops. So you would use up to 4 of the 36 exposures on one roll of film just to get one pose that (hopefully) gave you a nice negative to print!
A Little Goes A Long Way!
Because of the film’s cost, the fact that only one professional lab in town could even process it, and the number of “hoops’ I had to jump through using it at a wedding, I would try to use one roll of 36 exposures for two or even three weddings, so that meant 3 to 5 poses per wedding. That was really about the right number for something this unique without overdoing it.
The third challenge. Since infrared light focuses at a different wavelength than visible light, so you had to adjust the focus of the image so it was actually looked slightly out of focus in the camera viewfinder! It took lots of practice, but I got pretty darn good at getting my infrared wedding photography in sharp focus.
Oh, and I almost forgot the most challenging part of all. Once you (hopefully) had it in focus, you had to put a dark red filter on the lens to block out all visible light. Nobody ever said that infrared wedding photography was easy!
Good Glass Makes A Difference
We used two lenses exclusively for our infrared wedding photography at that time.
On our Minolta MD 28mm f 2.8 lens we employed a HOYA 49mm R(25A) screw on filter on the front of the lens to filter out the visible light spectrum and capture the infrared spectrum (actually called near infrared).
We also used the very cool Minolta MD Fish-Eye Rokkor-X 16mm f 2.8 lens. This wonderful (and heavy) piece of glass, being a fisheye lens, didn’t allow for the use of any filter on the front of the lens due to the large front lens element. So I placed a piece a KODAK WRATTEN Gelatin Filter No. 25 (red) carefully cut to size and taped to the rear mount of the lens so that only the near-infrared light got through to expose the film.
When you used either of these filter types with any lens, the camera’s viewfinder was just about completely useless as these dark red filters were almost opaque.
It was very weird and challenging, but you got very cool infrared wedding photographs if you did everything right! Unfortunately, Kodak stopped making KODAK High-Speed Infrared Film many years ago.
Something Old Is New Again
Fast forward to today and our new friends at LifePixel Infrared Camera Conversions in Mukilteo, Washington!
Over the past months, we’ve been updating our “fleet” of Canon camera bodies. We’re now using nothing but the remarkable Canon 5D Mark III for our weddings and portraits. That left me with a tough decision to make; what to do with our “retired” camera bodies? They’re not worth a lot on the used market. But they’re still in good working order and still take very beautiful wedding photos. You don’t want to just throw them away and I don’t want them collecting dust either!
So we had our venerable Canon 5D camera body permanently converted to shoot only infrared wedding photography by the folks at LifePixel. Not just any infrared conversion either, but their very cool Super Color Infrared! Nice!
As far as the actual shooting of infrared wedding photography goes, it’s still exactly like when we used infrared film. The final results are best when it’s sunny outside, ideally with some puffy white clouds in the sky. This is the complete opposite of what we wedding photographers really want to see on your wedding day!
While that type of “harsh light” is preferred for infrared wedding photography, I really like what we’ve been able to capture even on some of those cloudy days too, the sky just isn’t as dramatic.
Also just like back in the film days, there are still some things you need to do properly before exposure. This still includes manually refocusing the lens for the near-infrared wavelength. But now instead of shooting only in black and white (like back in the infrared film days), we can create color infrared wedding photography too. It opens up a whole new world of very cool opportunities!
Having Our Cake and Eating It Too
That’s what I really like about our Canon 5D Super Color Infrared Camera conversion. Now I can choose either color or black & white (or both) for the finished look of our infrared wedding photography.
In the digital infrared age, there are some new technical obstacles too. The biggest is properly setting a custom white balance in the camera before exposure and equally important is how you process the images afterward. Both Photoshop® and Photoshop Lightroom® simply cannot convert the digital files properly without some serious help from other software first.
Let’s just say that I’m now using two new pieces of software on my Macs that I hadn’t even heard of before! It’s really the difference between success and failure in infrared wedding photography. It all takes some getting used to that’s for sure!
Hey, I Can See!
There is one thing that’s much, much easier in using an infrared digital camera conversion. There’s no dark red filter on the lens, so you can actually see what you’re looking at when you compose the image!
Joannie and I hope you’ve enjoyed our funky and unique Infrared Wedding Photograph Gallery. For us, it’s “something old is new again”. So the gallery might be small right now, but we’ll be adding more infrared wedding photography images as we create them. Enjoy!
Here’s what some of our past brides & grooms had to say about their wedding photography experience with Michael & Joannie Anderson:
“Michael and Joannie were amazing. We got married on Saturday and got the online gallery for our photos by Wednesday afternoon, and the photos are beautiful.
Michael was very responsive during the whole process. He answered all of my questions, met with us at least twice, and even called me the week of the wedding to talk about the plans for the day.
They captured all of the special moments I wanted to be captured. He was up for trying new and creative shots. My husband is a huge Vikings/football fan and they captured a few football related photos for us, which made my finance very happy. He found a creative way to capture beautiful photographs of us playing a quick (as in one play) game of football, guys vs girls.
Mike had lots of suggestions as to fun poses to do and places to take photos. That took a lot of pressure off of me trying to come up with ideas for fun photos. When I compare our photos to others on his website, they looked completely unique. Michael & Joannie bring a fresh perspective to each wedding, so you won’t feel like your wedding photos look just like everyone else’s photos.
If you are looking for an experienced photographer, who is creative, and will capture the photos you want and the photos your parents want, go with Michael Anderson Photography. It was the best decision I made (besides marrying my husband). Mike will make sure you have fun having your pictures taken and you’ll end up with beautiful photos to cherish.”
Samantha & Kenton were married at the historic Church of St. Michael in beautiful Stillwater, Minnesota with a fun wedding reception, dinner, and dance at Oak Marsh Golf Course in Oakdale, Minnesota.
“I titled this review “The BEST!” and while it’s true I’ve only ever gotten married once, I do feel like I’ve had lots of photographer experience on account of being in lots of other weddings. Michael and Joannie are phenomenal. We love looking at our pictures, and they captured the happiness of the day magnificently.
We were supposed to be married outside, but Mother Nature had other plans. Michael and Joannie were endlessly flexible because our schedule got thrown way off, and it was no problem for them to change equipment from being indoors to outdoors and back indoors again.
They wanted great pictures as much as we did, and were willing to do whatever necessary to make that happen. The pictures are great, Michael and Joannie are great, and I would recommend them to absolutely everyone.”
Laura and Max were married at St. Ansgar’s Lutheran Church in Cannon Falls, Minnesota with an awesome wedding reception at the Cannon River Winery & Vineyard also in Cannon Falls, MN.
“Howdy — groom here. I don’t want to sound difficult here, but I don’t really like having my picture taken. My loving wife coordinated everything with Michael and Joannie, so my first contact was on the day of my wedding. And they were awesome.
They kept everything positive, and we’re even able to keep me up. (Which is not always easy.) Michael even pinned the boutonnieres on my groomsmen and me. They took great pictures and kept spirits high.
Getting married can be stressful. Your photographers should not. I’d hire Michael and Joannie again in a second.”
Max and Laura were married at St. Ansgar’s Lutheran Church in Cannon Falls, MN with an awesome wedding reception at the Cannon River Winery & Vineyard also in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
“My husband Dave and I met Michael and Joannie at the wedding Expo in downtown Minneapolis. We were so excited to hear that they had done photos in our venue we had picked for the wedding. The profile Event Center has some very difficult lighting. Michael and Joanie did a FANTASTIC job capturing the day. They caught even the smallest things that I would have missed.
We didn’t know what kind of photos we wanted. Michael’s meetings helped us figure out what photos would be most memorable from the day.
They were so friendly and easy to plan with! We’re so excited to say that we will be going back to Michael and Joannie when we need more photos taken! We were so happy with how everything turned out! our photos are STUNNING!”
Gina & Dave’s wedding and reception were both held at the Profile Event Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“Mike and Joannie were absolutely amazing to work with. They made everyone feel very comfortable the day of the wedding.
After seeing how our pictures turned out I could not have been happier that we picked them to capture our special day. It was great having both of them taking pictures. One for the more formal shots and the other for the candids. We have so many beautiful photos to pick from that we will cherish for a lifetime.
They were worth every penny we spent and we can’t wait to use them in the future for additional pictures!”
Diana & Buddy were married at Crown of Life Lutheran Church with a pretty reception at Southview Country Club, both located in West St. Paul, Minnesota.