Photography in the Ultraviolet Spectrum

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Introduction: Photography in the Ultraviolet Spectrum

or "See the World Through the Eyes of a Bee".

For years I've wanted to mess around with UV photography. Unfortunately, all the websites on DIY UV seem to assume an infinite amount of money and access to specialized equipment on my part. There are two things that I don't like, when someone tells me I HAVE to spend a lot of money (quartz lenses starting at $3000) or that i need specialized equipment (Wratten 18A filters, not cheap either).

So I set out to do it my way, and here's my $5 solution to UV wavelength photography.

Step 1: Finding a Filter

I was wracking my brains trying to find a UV bandpass filter, when, quite literally, a light bulb went off in my head. A blacklight bulb that is. Blacklight bulbs are formed from wood's glass. Wood's glass is a uv & ir bandpass filter.

There are two kinds of blacklight bulb (at least), incandescent and fluorescent. I tested both, good for you, because the fluorescent kind DID NOT WORK. This is good because the incandescent is safer to work with, and cheaper.

Step 2: Take Your Light Bulb

and break it, once you've broken it, take a piece that will cover your camera lens and work out a mount. I used the same mounting technique from my previous instructable. Okay, I cheated and used a glass cutter.

Here it is already to mount on my digital camera.

Step 3: Go Outside and Take Some Pictures

You'll need bright sunshine, and maybe a tripod, you can use flash, it puts out plenty of UV and gives you a different look.

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  • This is basically UV...-Dr KlausS

    Dr KlausS made it!

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73 Comments

I know this is an ancient article, but it is still up and since it is not accurate, I thought I'd chime in. You see, most cameras, (talking mainly about DSLRs, I am not very familiar with compacts and with some exceptions like Nikon D40/D70) have an IR/UV cut filter built-in, right in front of the sensor. So, if you manage to record an image on them with this method, it means you are not recording the UV spectrum, but the blue/violet part of the visual spectrum. Let's not also mention the fact that a real UV pass filter would be completely opaque to the naked eye. To actually get a UV image you will need a proper filter, but, more importantly, for most cameras you will have to do a "full spectrum" modification to remove the IR/UV blocking filter in front of the sensor (usually a $100-$200 service).

I think perhaps the article is somewhat more accurate than your reply. Sure, most digital cameras have IR and perhaps UV blocking filters over the sensor but no consumer-priced filter is 100% effective - they pass some IR and UV albeit only a little compared with visible light. So if you are shooting in visible light, with exposures in the hundredths or thousandths of a second range, to all intents and purposes they act as blocks to IR/UV.

However, if you, for example, put an IR pass filter over the lens, put the camera on a tripod, set auto-exposure and shoot, the resulting (1/2 - 1 sec probably in bright light) exposure will be a decent IR shot. The IR pass filter effectively blocks visible light (again not perfectly but good enough) and passes IR. With a long enough exposure, this IR will get through the camera's IR blocking filter on the sensor. This is a recognised way of doing mostly static IR photography at minimum expense and without hacking the camera and many people do it.

A similar argument is true for UV photography - and note that the author did state "You'll need bright sunshine and maybe a tripod .... "

Finding an affordable way to get UV quality pics like the ones recorded in this video would be nice to know https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9BqrSAHbTc

Hi! Great trick!

I'm developing a DIY UV meter and I need a UV pass filter to block any IR and visible light. They are rare/expensive. Any idea? Thanks!

This is very useful to begin training in the ultraviolet spectrum as well. I passed it along to my uncles (who teach Lights and Shadows) and they've had great success with it. Thank you for posting.

Very cool. I have heard that some white flowers have extravagant patterns under UV. That would make a nice example photo!

Forget about just making some awesome photos, I'm gunu have to get a room full of UV lights and an assortment of different flowers to make an epic party room ready for christmas and any other house parties I have :)
Thanks Nath @ Lincat

as a photographer myself i tend to go with regular flashes off camera, i hadnt even considered using a UV bulb - this is certainly something i am going to give a go - nice write up for the "poor mans" UV photography

Washroom UK

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I can not thank you enough, you just saved a student $50!