How to detect if your camera can see infrared light

; Date: Fri Sep 13 2019

Tags: Photography »»»» Infrared Photography

What if you could take infrared pictures just by screwing on an IR filter? While most digital cameras have built-in filters to block infrared light, some do not. That makes infrared photography possible simply by attaching an IR filter, rather than undergoing a conversion process.

A digital camera where the lens system passes infrared light, and where the sensor is sensitive to infrared light, is easy to use for infrared photography. Infrared light is all around us. We can’t see it, but our cameras can. Most manufacturers install an IR filter in their cameras, necessitating modifying the camera to convert it for IR photography.

But some do not install such a filter, making such cameras attractive for those seeking to do infrared photography.

Think about what this means:

  • If you can see infrared light through a given camera
  • And if you can take a picture of an infrared light source through a given camera

Then perhaps that camera has the required infrared sensitivity for infrared photography.

Detecting whether this is true for a given camera is very easy using an item available in most households.

For more information see:

The one weird trick to detect if your camera is sensitive to infrared light

Most of us have a "Remote Control" for devices like televisions. Remote controls typically have an infrared LED that's used to send commands to the device (television) being controlled. For our purpose we don't care about anything other than the remote control emits infrared light.

With the camera turned on, simply point the Remote at the camera and press any button. If you can see the LED light up - you may need to take a picture - then the camera is natively sensitive to infrared. The brighter you see the LED, the more sensitive is the camera.

This trick does not work through an optical viewfinder. Because infrared light is not visible to the human eye, you must instead look at an image that's processed by the camera. Namely an electronic viewfinder, or a live view display on the back of the camera.

Source: Devan Ramani on YouTube

This technique is also useful to detect if the batteries in your remote are dead.

Okay, your camera is sensitive to infrared, now what?

Using this trick you can determine whether a camera is directly usable for infrared photography. If it does not see infrared, perhaps you can modify the camera to see infrared.

To use the camera for night vision photography, you'll need an infrared illuminator. A simple search ( on Amazon for infrared illuminator will turn up lots of products.

To use the camera as a dedicated IR photography camera, you'll need a filter to block everything but infrared light. Again ( IR filters are easily available via Amazon or other sources

The image at the top was taken with a digital camera which had been professionally converted for IR photography.

How to see infrared light

About the Author(s)

( David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.