How to produce infrared light

Written by mitch morgan
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Producing infrared light requires moderate labour and knowledge and may be accomplished with supplies that include an LED light panel with dimmer, coloured lighting gels and common items found around the home. Infrared technology is found in night vision goggles and scopes, and is also found in some home electronics such as TV remotes. Use infrared light with a camera's night vision function to make images in darkness appear brighter.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • LED light panel or bright light source
  • Primary Red lighting gels
  • Congo Blue lighting gels
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Heavy construction paper

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    Building an Infrared Light Source

  1. 1

    Purchase an LED light panel or similar light source. Find a light that has a flat surface on which to affix lighting gels, and choose one that projects light in one concentrated direction instead of all around. Pick a wireless, battery-operated light source if the infrared light is to be used outdoors. Look for a light with a built-in dimmer if more control over the amount of infrared light is desired.

  2. 2

    Cut three to four Primary Red lighting gels and three to four Congo blue lighting gels so that each gel covers the light's flat surface without overlapping it. Stack the gels on top of one another and affix them to the light, using rubber bands or tape if necessary. Test the light to ensure that there are enough layers of coloured gels so that no visible white light shines through. Remember, infrared light is invisible to the naked eye, so it is important to "cancel out" white light by applying enough gels. Ignore the white light that escapes the extreme edges of the LED; this is addressed in the next step.

  3. 3

    Build a cover, using heavy construction paper and tape, that fits snugly around the edges of the light source. Add this feature to prevent excess light from escaping and altering the effects of the infrared light.

  4. 4

    Use the new infrared light source with the night vision function found on some video cameras to produce brighter pictures when shooting in dark or extremely lowlight situations. Attach the device to a camcorder with tape for infrared light access anytime.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider how the infrared light device will be used, as there are lower-cost alternative methods to producing infrared light using devices such as LED flashlights. However, these typically will not provide as much infrared light as an LED panel and therefore may not be as ideal for use with video cameras. Using removable coloured lighting gels to filter light allows one to use the light source for other, non-infrared purposes.
  • Do not rely on homemade infrared devices for traversing terrain in darkness. These lights may give off adequate light when close to their subjects, but provide limited range of vision.

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