UV photography tutorial

Reveal yourself in a raw way

Far less known than its cousin infrared photography, and far more complex to master in film and digital, UV photography however has many interests for all enthusiasts of alternative techniques.

In this UV photography tutorial, I will introduce you to the basics of this technique and the best subjects offering real potential compared to traditional photography.

Put on your sunglasses, let’s go!

Links between UV photography and infrared photography

The basics of understanding UV photography take up the logic of infrared photography. Only the segment of the electromagnetic spectrum changes, since the part that interests us here is located in UV-A, between 320nm and 400nm.

This capture segment is imposed by the low limit of spectral sensitivity of the CMOS sensors of the cameras, once these have been defiltered.

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Concerning the quipment, we are therefore in the well-known area: a full-spectrum defiltered camera, lenses with good UV transmission and a UV-bandpass filter allowing only UV radiation to pass. Nevertheless, the material constraints are stricter here than in infrared:

  • The lenses are most often subjected to an anti-UV coating on all of their glasses. It is therefore necessary to use a lens having few optical elements and with little or no optical coating. The list of compatible lenses is then limited to specialized quartz lenses used in research and costing more than $4000, or to vintage manual lenses, very often of poor construction but at a very low price. Recent entry-level lenses are also good candidates.
  • A simple UV-pass filter is not enough. In fact, this type of filter also allows a small quantity of infrared to pass through. Unfortunately this quantity is too important and leeds in polluting the shot. The addition of a second layer of infrared filtering glass (IR-cut) is therefore necessary.

Currently, the most effective UV-bandpass filter is developed by Kolari Vision, and incorporates both a UV-pass layer and an IR-cut layer.

UV photography portrait

Portrait is the most common subject in UV photography. This technique indeed offers very detailed, very raw portraits, where the signs of photoaging (sunspots, wrinkles) are revealed.

Here we are far away from cosmetic beauty standards, to focus on the impact of living environment and experiences on the people photographed.

UV photography is also the most impactful technique for sun prevention.

UV photography landscape

Where IR rays are reflected by tree leaves, UV rays are absorbed by photosynthesis. In UV photography, this results in significant darkening of any plant subject.

The landscapes become heavy, suffocating, the atmospheric mist veils the horizon, nature seems burnt. An anticipation of the consequences of global warming?

UV photography architecture

A less obvious but still interesting subject in UV photography: architecture and urban environment. Due to the anti-UV properties of the materials used, the contrasts are redistributed and the results are sometimes surprising.

Imagine a Louvre pyramid made opaque, like an onyx sculpted to extraordinary dimensions!

Conclusion of this digital UV photography tutorial

Getting started in digital UV photography requires a lot of time and trials, as this technique accumulates constraints. However, its potential is certain and its fields of multiple applications.

To go further
Getting Started with UV Photography
Read the article
What makes a good UV filter?
Read the article
UV Photography Compatible Lenses
Read the article
UV Photography Lighting Solutions
Read the article
Shooting Video in Ultraviolet
Read the article
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Since the publication of this tutorial, I had the opportunity to write many articles in English related to UV photography.

On your left you will find links to these articles.

If you want to use some of the pictures in this article for illustration or commercial purposes, contact me directly by presenting your needs and the desired types of use. I will get back to you as soon as possible with a suitable commercial offer.

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