Dancing with Invisible Light: portraits shot with Kinect's infrared structured light


Shown here, images from Audrey Penven's photography series "Dancing with Invisible Light: A series of interactions with Kinect's infrared structured light." From her description of the project:

5197391931_b1e98542c9_osm.jpg 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.

View the full set here (prude alert: contains both portraits and nudes). To purchase a print, contact the photographer at audrey.penven@gmail.com: 11x14 for $60, 16 x 20 for $120.

Dig the crazy lens flares the Kinect light creates in the shot below!


Related coolness at openkinect.org.

Models: qtrnevermore, C. King, Mike Estee, Sloane Soleil, Helyx, Star St. Germain, Ian Baker, Annetta Black, Josh St. John.
Assistants: Aaron Muszalski, Ian Baker, Mike Estee

An earlier photo set is also online here.

(Thanks, sfslim!)


  1. Now it all makes sense! The camera must be much higher resolution than VGA video in order to achieve the depth resolution that they do.

  2. I looked into this structured light stuff back in 1998 for other reasons involving visual effects. I remember it the main company doing it at the time was based in Israel. Interesting.

  3. A smart MS marketing person would buy these for ads! Also, apparently Kinect will make me beautiful (adding to wishlist…)

  4. Those are beautiful photos. That said, it sure would be nice if I had a job that didn’t look down on nudity. Somehow, I don’t think that makes me a prude, though, and I find the terminology offensive and demeaning.

  5. There’s something not right about this.
    First if you need an infrared camera to capture the light why are the images not in infrared (Google infrared photography and you’ll see what I mean) generally when captured in infrared the images are kind of black, white and blue only, these definitely have normal colour tones to them. Which is unusual!

    Second There’s a couple of instances where the Kinect dots are streaked on the models face/body but stationary on the wall in the background, I.e either there was two kinect transmitters(ont on the back ground stationary and one moving on the model) or the streaks were added in lated (i.e. photoshop)

    I’m not saying its a hoax but I’m a little suspicious and think it needs further investigation

    Also great timing as marketing for the kinect isn’t it (I don’t believe in coincidence when product names are mentioned)

    1. I think what you meant to say was “it’s ‘shopped, I can tell by the product name”. ;-)

      Seriously though, what you’re seeing are the actual images as captured by the camera (a Canon Rebel XT DSLR converted for IR). The only subsequent manipulations were cropping and levels adjustment in Lightroom.

      As for why the images appear different than the IR photos you may be familiar with, it may help to understand that these images were shot with a digital camera, and not infrared color film; the results are quite different. Also realize that, since infrared light does not fall within the visible spectrum, any translation of it into that spectrum is inescapably arbitrary. Said another way, all IR photographs are “false color” images ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False-color ).

      If you’d like a more detailed technical explanation of the process used on this shoot (including an explanation of the streaked dots) I recommend you read Mike Estee’s post, “Shootin’ at 700” ( http://www.mikeestee.com/blog/2010/11/shootin-at-700/ ). In addition to being one of the models in this shoot, Mike is also a photographer (it was his Rebel XT that Audrey used) as well as an accomplished industrial designer.

      Lastly, the reason for the “great timing” has nothing to do with this being a MSFT-sponsored marketing campaign and everything to do with cutting-edge artists and hackers doing what they do best: breaking apart and repurposing the latest tech to see what unforeseen creative applications they can find for it. These images weren’t the result of commerce, but of curiosity, playfulness and love.

      Time, perhaps, to recalibrate your cynicism circuits?

  6. Hey Anon

    I was part of the photo session, and the regular light you are seeing is from an auxiliary flash unit fired in synch with the shot in some of the images. The pics you see where the dots are blurred or flying are created when the Kinect is angled to the side of the model.

  7. These are just joyfully awesome. In addition to being technologically creative, are beautiful portraits t’boot. Well done!

  8. Guess I must buy a Kinect. To date there has been no naked hotness of the quality pictured above dancing in front of my Xbox.

  9. “yay”, safesearch. And no way to toggle it without creating an account. Thanks but no thanks, flickr…

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