Public Lab Wiki documentation

Near-Infrared Camera

21,295 views | Last edited by warren about 3 years ago | #59

The Infragram Kickstarter video, a great introduction to the project.


Vineyards, large farms, and NASA all use near-infrared photography for assessing plant health, usually by mounting expensive sensors on airplanes and satellites. At Public Lab, we've developed a Do-It-Yourself way to take these kinds of photos, enabling us to monitor our environment through quantifiable data.

Our technique uses a modified digital camera to capture near-infrared and blue light in the same image, but in different color channels. We then post-process the image (using to attempt to infer how much it is photosynthesizing. This allows us to better understand and quantify how much of the available light plants are metabolizing into sugar via photosynthesis.

You can do this yourself (as with all Public Lab tools) but there is also an Infragram DIY Filter Pack available in the Public Lab Store.

We ran a Kickstarter for a version of this camera we call the Infragram. Read more about it here » Here's the video from the Kickstarter, which offers a nice visual explanation of the technique:

What is it good for?

Multispectral or infrared/visible photography has seen a variety of applications in the decades since it was developed. We have focused on the following uses:

  • Take pictures to examine plant health in backyard gardens, farms, parks, and nearby wetlands
  • Monitor your household plants
  • Teach students about plant growth and photosynthesis
  • Create exciting science fair projects
  • Generate verifiable, open environmental data
  • Check progress of environmental restoration projects
  • Document unhealthy areas of your local ecology (for instance, algal blooms)

Notable uses include this photograph of an unidentified plume of material in the Gowanus Canal (and writeup by TechPresident) and a variety of projects at a small farm in New Hampshire at the annual iFarm event. The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium has also collaborated with Public Lab contributors to measure wetlands loss following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Here's an example of what one of our "Infragram" cameras sees (left) and the post-processing analysis which shows photosynthetic activity, or plant health (right). This picture was taken from a commercial airplane flight:


How does it work?

Camera modification: We've worked on several different techniques, from dual camera systems to the current, single-camera technique. This involves removing the infrared-blocking filter from almost any digital camera, and adding a specific blue filter.


This filters out the red light, and measures infrared light in its place using a piece of carefully chosen "NGB" or "infrablue" filter. Read more about the development of this technique here. You can also learn more about how digital camera image sensors detect colors at this great tutorial by Bigshot.

Post-processing: Once you take a multispectral photograph with a modified camera, you must post-process it, compositing the infrared and visible data to generate a new image which (if it works) displays healthy, photosynthetically active areas as bright regions. An in-depth article on the technique by Chris Fastie (albeit using red instead of blue for visible light) can be found here.

History of the project: While we used to use a two-camera system, research by Chris Fastie and other Public Lab contributors have led to the use of a single camera which can image in both infrared and visible light simultaneously. The Infrablue filter is just a piece of carefully chosen theater gel which was examined using a DIY spectrometer. You can use this filter to turn most webcams or cheap point-and-shoots into an infrared/visible camera.

Background: satellite infrared imaging

The study of Earth's environment from space got its start in 1972 when the first Landsat satellite was launched. The multispectral scanner it carried, like the scanners on all subsequent Landsat satellites, recorded images with both visible and near infrared light. Remote sensing "scientists" quickly learned that by combining visible and infrared data, they could reveal critical information about the health of vegetation. For example, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) highlights the difference between the red and infrared wavelengths that are reflected from vegetation. Because red light is used by plants for photosynthesis but infrared light is not, NDVI allows "scientists" to estimate the amount of healthy foliage in every satellite image. Thousands of "scientists", including landscape ecologists, global change biologists, and habitat specialists have relied on these valuable satellite-based NDVI images for decades.

There are public sources of infrared photography for the US available through the Department of Agriculture -- NAIP and Vegscape -- but this imagery is not collected when, as often, or at useable scale for individuals who are managing small plots.


Caption: Normal color photo (top) and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) image. NDVI image was derived from two color channels in a single photo taken with a camera modified with a special infrared filter. Note that tree trunks, brown grass, and rocks have very low NDVI values because they are not photosynthetic. Healthy plants typically have NDVI values between 0.1 and 0.9. Images by Chris Fastie. Visit the gallery of high-res images by Chris Fastie

Frequently Asked Questions

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Title Author Updated Likes
How to design a camera for calculating ENDVI. @nickyshen0306 3 days ago
Need help to reduce the Blue in mobius point and shoot camera @Muneeswaran 20 days ago
What is the working principle of Blue/Red filter @nickyshen0306 24 days ago
How do I take root and hypocotyl pictures for plant without light influence @Xing new contributor 26 days ago
I just gotten my newly purchased Infragram Pi Camera, my pi.local is blank and pi.local/Cam keeps popping up message "Error in RaspiMJPEG" hence I do not get any live video feed. Anyone can help? @willieong 2 months ago
AWB_Gains for PiNoIRCamera V2 (Red Filter) @kauemv2 4 months ago
Should I use two sheets of filter? @kauemv2 4 months ago
How to calibrate the white-balance for NDVI using the BLUE filter? @cagiva 8 months ago
I am getting very low NDVI values. @Anice 8 months ago
Infragram Point and shoot photos: white balance not working @Muneeswaran 9 months ago
Need insight on using this lens on modded camera for NDVI: OCN (Orange+Cyan+NIR) filter @alanw about 1 year ago
Best low cost camera for indoor plants? @DrC about 1 year ago
Is it possible to calculate average NDVI in a picture using infragram's sand box? @Hala73 over 1 year ago
Problem with filter for Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera @sjmanosalvas over 1 year ago
Why do the plant colors look the way they do? @jenhu over 1 year ago
Which RGB channel is the near-infrared saved in for the red and blue filter? @jenhu over 1 year ago
Camera module for Computer Vision/LED Plant Measurement System @SangHo over 1 year ago
600 year old cedar tree - Infragram @Randall over 1 year ago
How can I can make a raspberry pi camera just with the filters process the crops and immediately produce the results to a computer or to other device, without having to use the website? @csteran over 1 year ago
How to make this picture in an NDVI image @Davide_Ferrante over 1 year ago
Add a filter on a Pi NoIR camera @fsxskillz over 1 year ago
How can I validate the NDVI images @Aman007 over 1 year ago
buying Infragram filter pack in UK @ruya over 1 year ago
How to get NDVI image by image src instead of choosing image ? @Ankita over 1 year ago
Can these filter packages be adapted to Raspberry Pi cameras? @sjmanosalvas over 1 year ago
Visible Atmospherically Resistant Index (VARI) @rway over 1 year ago
Camera that would detect at 1064nm? @jpschaaf over 1 year ago
Can Infragrams be used to count coconuts/crop productivity? @James_Vagabond over 1 year ago
How can I have a value of NDVI starting from a IR picture? I want to find a numeric value of NDVI in pictures teken with a normal camera without IR filter. is it possible? @giuliooooo over 1 year ago
Can I use a Raspberry Pi with the Pi Noir camera to make NDVI images? @warren almost 2 years ago
How big is the filter in the infragram DIY filter pack? @robotfarms almost 2 years ago
I need a help I'm doing a research project on NVDI processes @camiloreyes about 2 years ago
AstroPlant RPi sensory system @Sidney_AstroPlant about 2 years ago
"Test images" for multispectral image processing @warren about 2 years ago
Transmission & other related information of the Red Filter @suman over 2 years ago
What is the algorithm used in generating the fastie colormap from NDVI in Infragram? @Jtaw over 2 years ago
Can I use any red filter for capturing NIR light? @sujayj over 2 years ago
I would like to know why near infared imaging works, and what it does. @kiramac over 2 years ago
GoPro Hero HD first version- Making full spectrum( Removing IR filter) @suman over 2 years ago
Can you process multiple images at the same time? @JonathanM32 over 2 years ago
PublicLab Mobius calibration @dbehr over 2 years ago
Video Infragram @jfd almost 3 years ago
Query about Infragram DIY Filter Pack ( blue & red filter) @suman almost 3 years ago
Question infragram kit @marfisistemidroni almost 3 years ago
What is the ideal white balance for the Infragam Point and Shoot? @abdul almost 3 years ago
Can anyone help me troubleshoot my NDVI imagery? @abdul almost 3 years ago
How to process images using a mobius with an IR lens? @miguel_rosas almost 3 years ago
MobiusActionCam vs S100 @ashwinvasudevan almost 3 years ago
what are the requirements of a camera for Filter replacement and NDVI imaging? @Ajith_Kumar almost 3 years ago
loading the proper camera driver for the DSK webcam @Winter almost 3 years ago
Correct Config. File & Trobule shooting2 @will123 almost 3 years ago
Don't know how to use DIY Plant Analysis Webcam @Barabba33 almost 3 years ago
Infragram Point and Shoot Plant Cam @alexrfholland about 3 years ago
Question: Infragram point & shoot image @ino over 3 years ago
How can one Infragram photo produce different NDVI results? @cfastie almost 4 years ago
Question: how to calculate NDVI @rajsan1108 almost 4 years ago
What is the correct interpretation for the NDVI infragram color scale? @DuvTorres over 4 years ago
Modified camera with 25A red filter - NDVI needs calibration- Any Ideas? @Tbtouaki almost 5 years ago
First Infragram cam trials - Primeros ensayos con cámaras Infragram @ivalethia almost 5 years ago
Question: retrieving true color image from infragram images @brooksdr about 5 years ago
Will Infragram help with Indoor Hydroponics/Aquaponics? @ajawitz over 5 years ago
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How to process your images

(this section is moved to and updated at

We're working on an easy process to generate composite, infrared + visible images that will reveal new details of plant health and photosynthesis. There are several approaches:

Note: Older versions of this page have been kept at the following wiki page:

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