Shot in Anseong, South Korea with a Holga on the incredibly rare, ever so delightful Kodak Aerochrome infrared film. © Patrick Bresnahan

15 thoughts on “Wisp

  1. Beautiful! Do you have any tips for using infrared film in a Holga? I want to purchase both for a trip to Mexico, but don’t want to waste such precious film!

    • Thanks! Some time ago, someone contacted me about shooting color infrared in a holga. He hadn’t used a holga before and wanted to shot architecture in infrared, so I wrote him about the basics of the camera as well as just about everything else one might want to know when shooting this particular film. I’ll go ahead and paste that email here. Some of it might apply to you, some might not – especially if you’re familiar with focusing and shooting on a holga. Anyhow, here it is. I hope this helps you out! If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask : )

      Thanks for contacting me. I hope I can help out. The Holga is a fantastic camera for shooting infrared. To ensure best results, I think you should load up some regular color or black and white film first to get used to how everything works – particularly focusing and framing. You’ll notice that the viewfinder is quite far from the lens. So, what you see through the viewfinder will not actually be captured on the film. I made this mistake a lot when I first started using the Holga. I thought my subject was square in the center of the frame (because I was looking through the viewfinder when I shot), but it would end up being a bit off when I got the film developed and scanned. You can improve the framing of your subject by shooting from the hip so to speak. Just hold the camera out in front of you, make sure it’s angled properly, and then take the shot.

      Am I right to assume that you’ll be shooting buildings and structures in infrared? If so, these buildings will most likely be far away so you’ll want to focus the Holga at infinity – the little mountain on the lens. If you want close ups, you’ll put it on the single man icon – which focuses everything around 3ft away. You can’t get super close ups. If you’re too close to the subject, it will be blurry. So, if you have the time, experiment with a handful of regular film rolls first to get the hang of focusing and framing.

      Color IR – Storing

      You should put all your IR films in the freezer until you’re ready to shoot. Bring the film up to room temperature by leaving it in a moderate temperature for a few hours. Never put the film in a very hot environment like in a car trunk.


      You really want to load the camera in pitch blackness. I’ve heard that color IR film can be loaded in subdued light, but I honestly don’t trust that. It’s very, very sensitive film. So, you should load it in the darkest room you have available. Maybe a basement or bathroom without a window would work nicely. If not, you can pick up a changing bag for around 10-20 dollars. This will allow you to load the film in complete darkness.


      Holgas are very cheap, very crudely made cameras. They often are not light tight – the seals aren’t perfect – so photographers will get light leaks on their film. Sometimes it’s subtle and looks cool, other times it ruins the image. Since color IR film is really sensitive, it’s best to tape up the camera after it has been loaded. Use some black duct tape and cover every part of the camera except for the little red window on the back. When you go out to shoot, put one piece of black tape over that window. After you take a shot, peel back that piece of tape so you can see the film number. Then you can advance the film to the next frame because you’ll see the corresponding numbers. When you’ve advanced the film to the next frame, you can cover up that red window again.


      You’re going to need a filter to shoot color IR film. If you don’t use a filter, your photos will look all pink – not desirable. So, several different kinds of filters can be used. From what I’ve seen online, the best results come from using either orange or yellow filters. All my color IR shots were taken with a Tiffen yellow #12 filter. Do some searches online to see which filter you prefer. I like the yellow filter because I can also use it with black and white film.

      Step Up Rings

      If you look at your Holga’s lens, you’ll notice that there are no threads to put a filter on. You have a few options. One, you can get a 46mm ( the size of the holga’s lens ) filter and gently screw it into the holga’s soft plastic. If you do this, however, you’ll probably not be able to get that filter off easily. It would most likely become a permanent attachment to the holga. This isn’t ideal, because you’re probably not going to want to use an orange or yellow filter all the time ( if you plan on using the holga after you’re done with the infrared shots ). So, I think it’s best to get a step up ring. These can be found really cheap online – maybe a dollar or two. Basically, it’s a ring with male and female threading. One side will be smaller than the other. So, you’ll have to buy a 46mm to 52mm step up ring for the holga. The 46mm side you can gently screw into the holga’s lens. Then, you can attach your 52mm orange or yellow filter to that step up ring. After using, you can take off the filter and the step up ring will stay attached to the holga. You can shoot other films just fine if the step up ring is still attached. Here’s some information on step up rings. http://www.squarefrog.co.uk/techniques/using-filters.html


      The Holga can be shot on the N setting which I believe is 1/100th of a second. This is perfect for bright sunny days. Personally, I’ve found that sunny days look better in IR than cloudy days. So, you’ll most likely want to shoot on clear sunny days with the N setting. I have no experience shooting IR at night, and I don’t think it would work. If you’re shooting on a dark, cloudy day you might need to press the shutter two or three times to get the right exposure. You can do this with a tripod. Set the camera up, make sure everything’s right, and press the shutter two or three times to get the right exposure. Just make very certain that the camera doesn’t move at all. I haven’t had to do this with IR because I just tested my patience and waited for sunny or bright cloudy days. If it’s bright and cloudy, you should be fine with just pressing the shutter once on the N setting. I haven’t used the B setting with IR, but it could be done if you’re in a shady, indoor or darker area. You’ll need a tripod for certain if you use the B setting. It all depends on your lighting, but if you’re shooting with low lighting, you’ll want to use a tripod and have the holga set to B. Then just press down the shutter for a split second.


      Again, this is super sensitive film so make sure you unload the camera in complete darkness. After you’ve taken the last shot, keep winding the advance knob until the film is completely rewound. Then, make sure it’s firmly secured and closed up. There will probably be a sticky side for you to tape it down. If not, use some tape and make sure it’s completely sealed. From there, put it back in the tube that it came from and keep it in a dark place until you get it developed.


      Where you get your film developed is absolutely crucial! I can’t stress this enough. Do not take it to the standard 1 hour photo place. Your shots will be ruined if the lab uses a normal machine for developing this film. Those typical developing machines have infrared sensors inside them. This doesn’t effect most films because they are not sensitive to IR light. Color IR film, of course, is sensitive to IR light so your photos will be fogged over if you develop them at such a place with that sort of machine. So, ask around, or do some research. If you go to a professional lab and WARN WARN WARN them that you have IR film, they should be able to help you. Basically, the developing will have to be done by hand in complete darkness. Make sure that the lab you take it to has experience with color infrared films.

      Developing – C41 (cross process) or E6 (slide)

      All of my color infrared photos were developed with the E6 process. This means they were turned into slides – positive images. If you develop with the C41 process, your film will be made into negatives. Both processes can be done. I personally like the E6 style. However, I’ve seen good color IR photos online that were done with C41. Just do some online searches for ‘cross processed infrared photos’ or ‘color infrared c41’ and you should be able to see shots that were developed with C41.

      Timing / Lighting

      I think the time of day you shoot the IR film is important. I found that my most striking images were shot either in the early morning or in the late afternoon ( with the sun to my back ) on very clear days. Here are some examples of shooting at this time, with those lighting conditions, and with clear skies:




      These next ones were shot on cloudy days and not in the early morning / late afternoon:



      Although I still think they are cool, they’re not quite as bold or vibrant. Anyhow, each of these shots were taken on the N setting of the Holga. I didn’t have to worry about using tripods or anything like that.

      Anyhow, I hope this helps you get on your way. I’ve tried to be thorough. If I’m missing anything, or if you have any other questions, please let me know.

      Also, I watched this video online before I ever shot IR. It helped me get on my way.


      Take care, and good luck with your trip to Mexico! Oh yeah, and make sure the airport security hand checks your film instead of having it run through the xray scanner – it could potentially fog your film.

      • Here’s a bit of info on shooting black and white infrared film with a Holga that I also emailed to someone who was curious about trying it out.

        Black and white IR is really cool film, but it’s totally different to shoot on compared to color infrared. For one, you’ll need a different filter. I use a Hoya R72 filter for black and white infrared. This seems to be the most common filter choice by many photographers. Also, you’ll need different exposure times. With a holga, b&w IR film (excluding Kodak HIE), and hoya r72 filter, the exposure time is typically about a full second or two in bright sunlight (having the sun at your back tends to give the best results). So you’ll need a tripod for sure if you shoot black and white infrared due to the long exposure times necessary. Also, taping up the holga is necessary just like with color infrared. If you want to try black and white infrared, see if you can get some Efke Aura IR 820 film. It’s a bit pricey since they went out of business last August, but it’s my personal favorite. You can see some of my photos with this film online. You could also try out Rollei IR 400 black and white film. That also works nicely and is more readily available.

  2. Pingback: Bold Buddha Revisited, Color Infrared, Musings on Punctum | pj brez photography

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