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006 - Cyberpunk Photography Tutorial: Introduction

by Lucius Felimus | September 25, 2020


Important note: This is not a tutorial for editing photos. There are already plenty of resources for that. This will only give an overview on cyberpunk concepts and how to look for them in your own city. Even if it's just my own personal take, I hope it helps anyone who would like to try their hand on cyberpunk-inspired photography as well!

Cyberpunk photography is becoming more and more popular these days - and there has been an increasing demand for tutorials on how to shoot in this style. Ever since I started, I've been looking at YouTube and elsewhere for these tutorials. While they've been very helpful, everything seems to be focused on editing styles in post-processing software such as Lightroom and Photoshop. I feel like they're missing a very crucial part of what makes cyberpunk photography - it should be about subject matter first and foremost. The only tutorial I've found so far is this video by Noealz (which I recommend watching to the end, by the way). As someone who has been focusing on this "genre" of photography for quite a while now, I would also like to contribute my own interpretation as well, based on my own personal experiences and inspirations as a photographer.

To me, a picture (or in my case, an entire body of work) should start with a concept. You can apply this to any style or genre of photography, but today we're just focusing on cyberpunk.

But first - what is cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction set in a dystopian future (or near future) that focuses on a juxtaposition of high-tech and low-life, usually set in dense urban environments. It is a world in which technology has become so advanced - yet our collective human consciousness has not evolved past its primitive programming. These animalistic tendencies amplified by super advanced technology is what makes it so scary. Cyberpunk is a warning of a future that will become if humanity doesn't get its shit together. Ever since the sub-genre came into fruition, there have been countless writers, filmmakers, and artists producing their own take - which has evolved it into the rich and diverse subculture that it is today; and at the same time blurred out its definitions on what it's supposed to be in the first place. This has been a point of contention among enthusiasts for quite a while now. Personally, I think this is a good thing, because each person can have their own interpretation of what cyberpunk is about.

No matter how grounded in reality cyberpunk is, it's still a work of fiction. And photography as an artistic medium can only do so much - we are limited by the things that exist in the real world. So, how can photography be cyberpunk?

There's no single correct answer to this question - it's up to the photographer to decide how to go about it. Personally, I take inspiration from my favorite cyberpunk media and focus on the worldbuilding aspects to create the illusion of a futuristic dystopian world. This will be my basis for this tutorial.

Cyberpunk is quite known for its tropes that make it feel very immersive and realistic at the same time. And today, we shall be focusing on these elements that can be applied to photography. I divided this tutorial into 2 parts - Worldbuilding Elements (or the core tropes that help establish a cyberpunk setting) and Aesthetic Elements (which only enhance the "look and feel"). Because to me, cyberpunk is not just an aesthetic - it's a philosophy as well.

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