Starry Portraits Shot Using an Infrared Camera and a Microsoft Kinect

“Dancing with Invisible Light” is a project by San Francisco-based photographer Audrey Penven, who used an infrared camera to capture portraits illuminated by the invisible structured light emitted by a Microsoft Kinect.

With these images I was exploring the unique photographic possibilities presented by using a Microsoft Kinect as a light source. The Kinect – an inexpensive videogame peripheral – projects a pattern of infrared dots known as “structured light”. Invisible to the eye, this pattern can be captured using an infrared camera. The Kinect uses the deformation of this dot pattern to derive 3D information about its subjects (an ability which has already spawned an explosion of incredible digital art).

As a photographer I am most interested in the nature and quality of light: how light behaves in the physical world, and how it interacts with and affects the subjects that it illuminates. For this shoot my models and I were essentially working blind, with the results visible only after each image was captured. Together, we explored the unique physicality of structured light, finding our way in the darkness by touch and intuition. Dancing with invisible light.

Dancing with Invisible Light (via My Modern Met)

Image credits: Photographs by Audrey Penven

  • Kevin Sarp

    What I wish is that an active infrared light system would be added to cameras for autofocus purposes. With a system as simpler(or even simpler) as the kinect’s, a camera could detect how far away a subject is and focus on in in literally zero light. It would be amazing, but I doubt it will ever happen since it would be so fundamentally different than the system current cameras use.

  • Happy_Tinfoil_Cat

    Awesome! What and cool idea. Friends of mine use Kinects to pilot their autonomous robots with. 

  • Darius Davis

    The Borgs are here.

  • Ben Marshall

    I am confused… I don’t quite understand where the awesomeness is.  To me this is more of an informational post… that the Kinect sprays the entire room with infrared dots… neat.

    How about putting a PL filter on the lens next time, or two even.  then photograph.  thats right… you will see only dots… and they will bend and flex to your body, because you are not flat.  and because Infrared light is extremely flat, it will not bounce reflections… in essence, you could have a 1300w pure infrared light blasting at you, with no visible light, and take some amazing photos…

    Dots are boring, unless they actually create something.

  • Dave

    My 5$ plastic film camera has that kind of AF system and performs reasonably well, regardless of available visible light. Including autofocusing in complete darkness. Where is your god now?

  • Makofoto

    Interesting but not attractive