Continuing my last post on infrared film, I wanted to offer some specific tips on handling and using this expensive film that's becoming harder and harder to find (but, is totally worth the cost and trouble!). The following tips will help with black and white infrared film:
Filters help bring out all the qualities we love about infrared (IR) film: dark skies, white foliage and clouds, and smooth, pale skin. A red #25 filter is the standard, however Freestyle Photo has a nice list of filters, both recommended and not, with their specific exposure adjustments.
Unlike traditional film, infrared (IR) film can only be handled in complete darkness. This means that the film cannot be removed from the light and air-tight plastic outer canister unless in total darkness or within a changing bag. The felt lining of the film trap is not always light-tight enough to prevent exposure.
Most automatic cameras use an IR sensor to advance the film to the next frame. An IR sensor is also often used in auto-focus cameras to measure distance. Both of these sensors will fog IR film. Fully-manual cameras, or cameras that use a zone focusing system, are the safest bet to use with IR film to make sure the only exposure happening is from the shutter, and when you want it.
If the camera has a film window, cover it completely with gaffer's tape to keep light out.
Light meters will not provide an accurate reading since they measure visible light, not IR. Brightness is usually an indicator of the amount of IR light available.
Time of year will affect the amount of IR light available. Plants undergo less photosynthesis during colder months, so leaves, which usually appear lighter on IR film may not have the same impact as in the warmer months. Heat can cause IR film to fog, so do not leave this film in a hot car and consider waiting until a cooler day to take outside.
As soon as the last frame is shot, unload (in total darkness or in a changing bag) into a plastic canister and label as IR. If outsourcing developing, make sure the lab knows it is IR so they handle it appropriately: in a tank, not a processing machine, which uses IR sensors.
I'd share black and white infrared photos of my own if I actually had ones that were properly exposed...I could've used these tips, myself!
As always, if you have suggestions or tips of your own, please share in the comments.