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Ultraviolet Photography

Flower in ultra violet Mimulus flower photographed in visible light (left) and ultraviolet light (right). Bees can see ultraviolet light which helps guide them to the nectar. See more examples of ultraviolet photography.

When it comes to the world around us there is much more than meets the eye. What we perceive as visible light is but a tiny fraction of the spectrum – beyond that small fraction lies the twin worlds of the infrared and ultraviolet. Ultraviolet photography can be a fascinating hobby, but only for photographers who understand the requirements.

Ultraviolet photography requires some unique techniques, and it is important for photographers to practice and experiment in order to get the best shots. Professional and amateur photographers have a choice of reflected UV or UV fluorescence photography, and it is important to understand what makes each option unique.

Reflected Ultraviolet Photography

Reflected ultraviolet photography uses lamps which emit UV light to illuminate the subject (typically two lamps are used). A special filter is placed in front of the camera lens to block visible light while allowing UV light to pass through. These filters are designed using specially colored glass, providing photographers with a convenient and effective way to block the visible light spectrum while illuminating the subject with UV rays.

UV Fluorescence Photography

The other option for UV photographers is known as ultraviolet induced visible fluorescence. This technique is widely used for archeological purposes, but it can be used for other subjects as well. This technique uses the same UV light emitting tubes as reflected ultraviolet photography, but the filters are used differently. In UV fluorescence photography the special glass filter is placed in front of the light source, where it absorbs all visible light. Since the visible light is blocked by the glass filter only the UV light is allowed to pass through. In some cases the glass filters will be incorporated into the tube itself, but for the most part the tube and the filter will be separate.

Choose the Right Equipment

The right equipment is essential to successful ultraviolet photography, and it is important for photographers to shop around carefully for the right cameras and accessories. Photographers with a standard SLR digital camera will generally need to use a filter that is capable of blocking infrared light while allowing ultraviolet light to pass through. This will allow photographers to get those great shots and take advantage of this unique part of the light spectrum.