Beginning Photography – Creating Infrared Effects with Gimp

Beginning Photography
Creating Infrared Effects with Gimp

Photoshop is awesome. But I don’t have $399-$1,000 for a software package like that right now. A better deal, to me, is – free. Yes, free! Anyone who is beginning photography can go to and use Gimp 2.6 (current version), a Gnu Image Manipulation Program, which is a freely distributed photopaint tool for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

So what am I going to use Gimp for?

Well, I’ve always wanted to convert my Canon G2 camera into an infrared camera. But I don’t know how to cut glass and those who can convert it charge as much money as a Photoshop software package. I love infrared photos –  my first time ever really seeing infrared photos was back in 1998 when our wedding photographer showed us her infrared photos.

That being said, infrared photos coming straight out of the camera are best – but when you can’t shoot infrared, the next best thing is with a image manipulation program. That’s where Gimp (not Photoshop) comes into play.

Several years ago I had a Photoshop package and had actions set up to do what I’m going to do on Gimp. Gimp, as far as I have experienced, is able to do a lot of things I used Photoshop for.

So here we go – Creating an Infrared Effect with Gimp.

The method I use is a compilation of other processes I learned, and through experience, this is what works best for me. There are a lot of other photo processing that may go along with the final result, but the one you see here is a photo and Gimp and that’s it.

I want to emphasize that there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to do this – and it is all in the artist’s eye. If the final image is what you want to get, then it doesn’t matter how you got there – it matters that you got there.

These steps, are quick, simple, and easy to do.

1. Load your image into Gimp.

I am borrowing the image for this step-by-step from “stock.xchng” (

stock.xchng photo id: 1059235

2. Using the Layers Window, duplicate the background. (I like to duplicate it twice and use the duplicates to manipulate keeping the original background untouched).

Select the ‘middle’ image, (the one above the original background).

Click on the ‘eye’ on the top image so the ‘eye’ disappears and you won’t be able to see the layer on your working window.

3. Get rid of some noise, intensify and saturate the image to increase contrast.

From the Drop Down, Click on Filters – Blur – Selective Gaussian Blur

For this image I will use a Blur Radius of 10 and Max Delta of 15. Again, this is where you will have to play around to get the results you want. The lower the number has less effect, the higher number has more. Use the Max Delta high enough to affect the noise and the Blur Radius to remove it.

4. Channel Mix The Image

Click on Colors – Components – Channel Mixer

This is where we will play with the main colors – RGB. Where the Red will be contrast manipulation, Green and Blue will be noise manipulation.

I always go to Red=100, Green=100, Blue= -100 and play from there. For this image I went to Red=110, Green=100, Blue =-109. Check the boxes for Monochrome and Preserve Luminosity.

We are almost done!

5. Opacity and Grain Merge

Right now your working layer should look like this.

Click on the ‘top’ layer so the ‘eye’ shows up and make sure you select that top layer. It will be a clean copy of the original background

Move the opacity slider to the left – for this image I liked 35. Then, from the Mode drop down, select Grain Merge and…

…your infrared image is complete!



See… Simple! And the end result – a cool infrared effect!

I didn’t have an image I shot to do this tutorial so I borrowed one from stock.xch. But I was so inspired I grabbed my camera and took a picture of the first thing I could – a tree in my neighbor’s lawn. I ran it through my Gimp process (with a little different numbers than the ones above) and ended up with this:



Beginning Photography is a learning process. But look at all the tools available to make the learning process incredibly fun! Creating infrared effects with Gimp is simple and easy: from your point and shoot camera or photos from an SLR. The best thing about this beginning photography tutorial is that the software used is absolutely free!

Thanks for reading!

More photography related posts:
Beginning Photography – Photo Retouching
Beginning Photography – How to be a better Photographer – Part 1 of 2
Beginning Photography – How to be a better Photographer – Part 2 of 2

About Glenn Magas