Infrared can give photos an otherworldly, way out there look, when shooting with a unique film or camera but you can achieve something similar with an app on your iPhone, which we will take a closer look at, with some examples.

The Kodak Aerochrome infrared film dates back to the 1940s, which was used for aerial surveillance by the military or other agencies to reveal things of interest in landscapes, that might be camouflaged or otherwise hidden. This film is now difficult to buy, barring pricey auctions, which is no surprise since it has been discontinued. The film has found a purpose outside of its original use, over the years, including for photojournalism and artistic projects.

The RNI (Really Nice Images) Aero app brings the distinctive Kodak Aerochrome infrared film look to photos in an easy to use app with lots of editing possibilities. No, it’s not a true infrared equivalent but the app emulates Aerochrome based on real film stock which replicates a digital version. While it’s not an app you’ll use all the time, with the right photo it can produce stunning results.

Editing a photo in RNI Aero

RNI Aero is available for iPhone and iPad, the subscription version is required for best results but it's free to download and try. If you are more of a desktop person, there are separate options for Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop ACR and Capture One, which RNI sell.

I have been using RNI Aero almost since it first came out, I pay for a subscription, and I have been using it for a project, that maybe one day I’ll put together, in prints etc. but I have shared plenty of examples in my Instagram. Some of my most popular IG posts have come from using this app. I am always looking for compositions that might do well with this app. It’s worth pointing out, that there are other options, VSCO primarily which has an IR infrared film set that I’ll perhaps cover in a different post.

A few tips for using RNI Aero, which are quite general but have worked well for me:

  • Look for contrast, something to separate the foliage/landscape, which will be turned into bright purple or red colours, this includes people, sky, water, a path, a landmark etc.
  • A blue sky for example provides a lovely contrast set against trees, which will be turned into something magical almost.
  • The effect won’t always work the way you expect, for example with yellows, so keep trying different subjects.
  • The pre-warmth and pre-tint adjustment settings are sometimes helpful to tweak the effect and adjust the tone.
  • Same for the strength and saturation settings, these can help too in getting the right look.
  • The app shows which settings you have adjusted by adding a small dot on top of them.
  • There are eighteen filters in total with a subscription activated, many of these are similar and you are only likely to use four or five of them, though it’s nice having different options.
  • There is also what RNI call real film-grain.
Image edited in RNI Aero

A subscription is a quid or dollar a month or a tenner a year. Without a subscription, there is a noticeable watermark, with a date stamp in the free version, which you can only turn off with a paid subscription which also unlocks the additional filters. None of the RNI apps are available on Android, if you really, really wanted to get their presets on that platform, you'd have to buy the products for Adobe Lightroom and sync them across to Lightroom mobile.

If you like the sound of authentic film emulation I recommend another of their apps, RNI Films, which I have talked about before on this blog.

To wrap up, RNI Aero is a cool app, it only does one thing, but it does it very well and is well worth checking out, even if you dislike subscriptions, you can try it out for free and see if it’s for you. It’s a blast creating your own landscapes with these surreal colours and I have had a lot of fun with the app.

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