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Making the Most of Kodak Aerochrome

Since I published my Aerochrome albums, I have been swamped with questions about various aspects of this incredible film. Several Lomographers have asked me to write an article explaining how to make the most of it, so here it is.

Photo by lazybuddha

Had it not been for the amazing response to my albums, I would never have considered writing this article because I am still a Lomography novice. There are many others much better than me and with much more Aerochrome experience. I sought advice from some of these great Lomographers before experimenting with Aerochrome and they were all very willing to share their knowledge. So,in that spirit, here is the little I have learned so far.

First off some background.
Kodak Aerochrome was designed for use in aerial photography, with forestry, cartography, industrial and military applications. Therefore it only comes in sizes designed for aerial cameras, typically 9.5 inch by 400 foot rolls. These tend to be a little tricky to fit into your standard 35mm or 120mm camera. So the fact that you can now find this film in 120 format (and very rarely in 35mm) means that someone has cut it down in complete darkness and re-rolled it, which is not easy. Coupled with the fact that it is now discontinued, means that it is expensive and extremely rare. All the more reason to perhaps ignore one or two of the 10 Golden Rules and put a little more thought into using it so as to make the most out of it.

Filters
Aerochrome is sensitive to the entire visible spectrum of light in the same way as normal film, the only difference is that its sensitivity is extended beyond 730nm (wavelengths of light are measured in nano meters) into the invisible near infrared. In fact, Aerochrome and other infrared films are actually more sensitive to blue light than normal film and that is why if you want to achieve true IR effects, a filter is so important. If you use Aerochrome without a filter, you will still get the intense contrast and textures but without the IR effects. Most people recommend either a yellow or orange filter but you can also use a red or even a green filter. In general, the darker the filter, the darker the reds and sky, and the greater the contrast. The lighter the filter, the pinker the reds and greener the sky. Here are some examples of the different effects from different filters.

Red filter

Orange filter

Yellow filter

Green filter

Note: Many other factors will also have an effect on your image besides the filter.

Exposure
Aerochrome is rated at 400ISO for use with a yellow filter, which means if you use a yellow filter then you meter at 400ISO. However, Aerochrome is designed to be processed in AR-5 chemicals with E-6 the nearest easily available alternative. If you want to cross-process in C-41 then it’s ISO rating changes to around 320. All my shots so far have been cross-processed in C-41 and as I never use a light meter my general guide for bright sunshine is;
Yellow filter – f22 1/125 sec
Orange filter – f16 1/125 sec
Red filter – f11 1/125 sec

If you over expose a little, you lose the color in the sky but gain more detail in the textures. If you over expose a lot, the images become very bleached out. Here are some samples: The first is slightly underexposed and the second is slightly overexposed.

Processing
As Aerochrome is designed to be processed in AR-5, it does not behave in the same way as other slide films. Normally, cross-processing side film results in extreme saturation and strong contrast, but with Aerochrome processing in E-6, it produces the most saturated images. Cross-processing in C-41 actually provides more detail. As Aerochrome images tend to be heavily saturated anyway, I find the increased detail of cross-processing to be an advantage. For a more detailed analysis and comparison of E-6 versus C-41 processing see here

Light source
The colour we (or the camera) see is dependent on two things, the color that the object absorbs/reflects and the light source. To perceive the true colour of an object, the color must be contained in the light source in order to be reflected. In the same way to capture the IR properties of an object, the light source must contain IR light. Sunlight is the best source of IR light but tungsten halogen lamps also emit IR. Most other artificial lighting (fluorescent and sodium) only emits visible light and so will not give you any IR effect. In fact many modern artificial lights are designed to emit as limited a range as possible for energy saving reasons. For this reason Aerochrome should not be used indoors or under artificial lighting except tungsten halogen.

Foliage
All different kinds of plants, including different types of trees and grass reflect IR light to slightly different degree. Therefore, they will all be slightly different shades of red in the final image. The lighter the filter, the more these differences will be obvious. A light yellow filter for example will give you many more shades of pink and red than a red one because obviously the red filter will block the lighter pinks.

Focusing
When light passes through any piece of glass, it bends (refracts) and because different colors have different wavelengths, they refract to different degrees. Normal camera lenses are ground and coated to focus all visible wavelengths (but not Infrared) onto the same point—the film. Therefore, having a longer wavelength, IR light focuses behind the film. Adjusting for this is tricky as obviously we are dealing with what we can’t see. Some old lenses have a red dot on them that is designed to show the adjustment needed for IR. If you are not lucky enough to have one, my rule of thumb has been to focus 1/3 to 1/4 closer than the visible focal point but it is largely trial and error. Obviously, the smaller the aperture you use the better your chance of success as it will increase your depth of field. Focusing accurately with a large aperture, such as f2.8, is extremely difficult.

Other factors that have a bearing on your final image are such random things such as atmospheric conditions and even height above sea level. With IR film, it really is a case of experimenting and seeing what works. But with a little homework before hand, hopefully we can keep the disappointments to a minimum. Good luck!

written by lazybuddha

73 comments

  1. adi_totp

    adi_totp

    thanks for tips! I'll bookmark this page :D

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. lighttomysoul

    lighttomysoul

    and here's a petition for anyone that hasn't signed yet :) http://www.lomograph(…)ir-petition

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. dabai

    dabai

    great tipster!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. clownshoes

    clownshoes

    awesome job

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  5. kertgartner

    kertgartner

    Very cool! I love shooting Kodak EIR, I have a tutorial on how to shoot the film here http://vfxhaiku.com/2010/02/how-to-shoot-kodak-eir-color-infrared-film/ and you can see a bunch of my shots on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kgartner/sets/72157613758492877/
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  6. 12_12

    12_12

    GREAT!!!!! Bookmarked! I got 3 rolls a couple of weeks ago! This is great!! I just need a proper camera for it!! I love the colour! Everybody sign @lighttomysoul petition!!!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  7. mephisto19

    mephisto19

    What a review! Thanks for sharing!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  8. shoujoai

    shoujoai

    Great review, great film :) thanks for using my pictures!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  9. imushie

    imushie

    So great !
    I'm going to share this :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  10. lazybuddha

    lazybuddha

    @kertgartner, you have some great EIR shots but (quote) 'EIR is in my opinion pretty much the only reason to still shoot film'. Boooo :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  11. mafiosa

    mafiosa

    Thanks for the tips!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  12. liquorice

    liquorice

    Thank you so much! :D

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  13. clickiemcpete

    clickiemcpete

    Thanks for the excellent article! I have a roll with green filter out at the lab right now that should be back soon.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  14. sebastianerras

    sebastianerras

    Great article!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  15. sarazhannes

    i love ur galleries! :))

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  16. ridwanfals

    ridwanfals

    briliant!!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  17. nicx

    nicx

    Thanks for this! i have gotta try get some of this film! Your photos are awesome!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  18. paytenpurdy

    paytenpurdy

    Thank you Lazybuddah! I just got my first roll of 35mm Color Kodak EIR in the mail, and am excited! This helped me A LOT! Thank you for the advice! :D

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  19. nadinadu

    nadinadu

    this is amazing! great article! :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  20. parky

    parky

    fantastic article, thanks!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  21. lazybuddha

    lazybuddha

    @paytenpurdy, congrats I've been after some 35mm for ages but keep getting out-bid on ebay. Don't forget that some cameras, such as the Canon EOS 300, use infrared sensors to read the film canister and set ISO. These expose the film, so make sure you use a fully manual camera. Good luck :D

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  22. paytenpurdy

    paytenpurdy

    @lazybuddah, yea I got it for a fairly cheap price(which was still expensive for a roll of film) $35, the last roll my friend bought was $60. I AM SO GLAD THAT YOU RESPONDED WITH THAT! I was literally about to load it into my Canon Eos 300 tomorrow, are you psychic? Haha. Now I am really thankful that you wrote this tipster. I would have paid a lot of money for some messed up photos!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  23. motionpicture

    motionpicture

    Facinating stuff!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  24. russheath

    russheath

    Amazingly well written, this should be the standard that LSI uses when asking for a great review or tipster. Thanks so much!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  25. agnes1409

    agnes1409

    OMG!!! how come can shot such a nice pics??? what camera u r using? I love them so much!!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  26. wonderdude

    wonderdude

    I really like this article.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  27. pikc

    pikc

    I want this film badly!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  28. freepeanuts

    freepeanuts

    where can i get these films!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  29. deepfried_goodness

    deepfried_goodness

    Great review and info. Now if only I can get my hands on some here in Toronto.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  30. worried_shoes

    worried_shoes

    Wicked pictures!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  31. stouf

    stouf

    Great ! But my personal rule is 'do not pay more than 3$ per roll' so I'm quite sure I'll never get my hands on this film... : ) I'm happy others do and produce these super cool images !

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  32. thedrumlord

    thedrumlord

    this is great but where do you get this film?!?!?!
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  33. aoba

    aoba

    great article!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  34. plasticpopsicle

    plasticpopsicle

    The colors are so beautiful! Never seen anything like it. I want...no, need to try this film!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  35. ihave2pillows

    ihave2pillows

    This is one of the best film reviews I've read here. Very detailed and full of helpful advices. Bravo ~

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  36. ihave2pillows

    ihave2pillows

    Oh oh. One question. If I use this IR film in a Diana or a Holga, should I tape over the red frame-counter window round the back of the camera?

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  37. lazybuddha

    lazybuddha

    @stouf, ha ha if I could create the amazing images that you do with $3 dollar film then I wouldn't pay anymore either! Unfortunately I'm a mere mortal. :-)
    @ihave2pillows, it's probably best to, although the window is basically a red filter so any leaks will only be IR leaks. It's more important to tape the seals as these might allow normal light in. I shot a roll in my Holga and basically completely wrapped it in tape. Beware though, the normal '30 clicks' rule doesn't apply, which I discovered to my cost. Always lift the tape to wind the film on, which is fine as long as you do it out of direct sunlight.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  38. g_leo

    g_leo

    thanks for sharing

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  39. lawypop

    lawypop

    thanks for the SUPER tips!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  40. lawypop

    lawypop

    thanks for the SUPER tips!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  41. stouf

    stouf

    Thanks a lot for the compliment ! And I appreciate your modesty, your shots are awesome independently of the film : ) The first one for instance (the swan) would have been a splendor with any film ! : ) Take care.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  42. jbrown363

    jbrown363

    Just bought Four rolls from this guy, He was very helpful and answered all my questions and it is only 25.00 USD. hope this helps all those who thought they couldn't afford it http://www.tarquinius.de/

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  43. 86john

    86john

    great article. sadly the film is extremely expensive and really hard to find.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  44. gvelasco

    gvelasco

    Wow! I think there's a market here for Lomography.com to get a hold of some of this stuff and cut it down to 120 and maybe even 35mm.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  45. simonh82

    simonh82

    Amazing article and amazing photos; favourite reveiw/tipster of the year!

    I would absolutely love to get my hands on some of this stuff. Come on LSI, i would blow all 200 piggy points i've accumulated on this stuff if you if you could get the rights from Kodak. They are looking to sell their patents at the moment, so you might be able to pick up a bargain.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  46. kuryzu

    kuryzu

    LIKES THIS!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  47. rebe_w_c

    rebe_w_c

    great tipster!
    i was wondering about this type of film since i saw these pictures by Richard Mosse
    http://www.richardmo(…)y.php?pid=1

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  48. foodeanz

    foodeanz

    this is awesome!!!!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  49. cupofwitt

    Aw i want this film so bad, the stuff i could do with it. I want this for reasons.
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  50. luisfernandes

    luisfernandes

    best colors ever!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  51. paytenpurdy

    paytenpurdy

    question:
    do some photo lab developer machines have infrared sensors? I'm just wondering because my roll turned out all wack with overly red hues on EVERYTHING. :( there goes my $50

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  52. lazybuddha

    lazybuddha

    @paytenpurdy, yes I'm afraid most do. I have been told that can switch these off if they are willing to, although one lab I asked refused.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  53. darkart69

    darkart69

    can this be developed using c-41 directly?..coz the studio near me only develops c-41 120 films
    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  54. fed

    fed

    Dude, words cannot express how awesome and incredibly informative your article is! This film is unbelievably psychedelic. Can´t wait to get my hands on this stuff..

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  55. anafaro

    anafaro

    I had to say this: great great great review!!!!! Now I understand why my first experience with Aerochroome turned out to be such a disaster: http://www.lomograph(…)frared-film
    I will be definitely give it another go, now that I read your article. Thanks for sharing this with us and congratulations on the great photos!

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  56. peeciella

    peeciella

    I thought the http://www.lomograph(…)-speechless has kept me speechless enough, but when i saw your pictures, it felt like peace and harmony in awhile :)

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  57. sirio174

    sirio174

    great article!

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  58. spoeker

    spoeker

    I love the photos!
    I will try your tips during my next trip. I could get my hands on some rolls and I'm so excited to use them!!
    Thanks a lot for sharing :)

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  59. bravebird

    bravebird

    Great article and thanks for the tips! Let's see how it works ;)

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  60. carlota_nonnumquam

    carlota_nonnumquam

    This is a great article, really helpful! Does anyone know where is the best place to buy this film?

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  61. ihave2pillows

    ihave2pillows

    I just got my 1st roll of Aerochrome!! Very nervous... lol

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  62. sandkorn

    sandkorn

    Wow! Great article, many thanks for the tips and tricks and the inspiration :)

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  63. djramsay

    djramsay

    thank you

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  64. hazy_baby

    hazy_baby

    When people say to use a yellow/orange/red etc filter, does it have to be a specific yellow/orange/red, or is the colour alone enough?

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  65. lazybuddha

    lazybuddha

    @hazy_baby, the colour is enough.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  66. hazy_baby

    hazy_baby

    @lazybuddha thank you :)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  67. mikahsupageek

    mikahsupageek

    Great review, this will be very helpful =)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  68. pangmark

    pangmark

    Superbly written article and I agree with stouf ( though less qualified ) that your photos would be great with any film

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  69. guinastrapazi

    guinastrapazi

    wow.. i really really loved all your photos, even if underexposed or overexposed - simply beautiful :)
    and damn!! i'm really a bit envious, i'd really love to try aerochrome ;)

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  70. hervinsyah

    hervinsyah

    I love the red filter photo. I hope my EBX can do that saturation but it can't

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  71. jarodfwh

    hi just wondering what red filter are you using for the second photo in comparison, love that color the most. thanks

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  72. saskiaboer

    saskiaboer

    wow, really how much money did you spend on so many rolls??? really guys, where to buy this stuff instead of ebay and aerochrome@live.de..?

    over 1 year ago · report as spam
  73. rbruce63

    rbruce63

    My first roll of Aerochrome III came out with a red stripe in the center of the roll. I believe this is due to bad repackaging of the film or it can be due to an IR sensor inside the Jobo Expert processing machine. On C-41 the only chemistry available in Costa Rica,mother images look a bit underexposed, however, I used an orange IR filter and closed the ISO to 125 to compensate in my Yashica Electro 35 GSN.

    about 1 year ago · report as spam

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