Cyberpunk photography is something that I’ve recently started taking an interest. While our current state of the world is arguably run on the concept of cyberpunk (advanced technology and rampant crime and poverty), we don’t really see the typical aesthetic that cyberpunk photography brings out. It mostly stems from the fact that cyberpunk photography only reveals itself through the use of cyberpunk filters and cyberpunk editing. However, on a quick browse of typical cyberpunk photography, it turns out the setting for most of these images is a sprawling metropolis at night, usually Tokyo or Seoul.
It seems that for an image to become cyberpunk, it requires a typical concept to be photographed. Mega-cities are a common muse since they easily convey the essence of cyberpunk: technology and poverty all in the same frame. And yet, not every metropolis manages to make it into the cut.
As I mentioned earlier, typical cyberpunk is night time snapshots of cities like Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles. You don’t really see any cyberpunk outside of these cities because these cities have the wow factor that cyberpunk needs to highlight: the bright shiny boards and glowing neon signs of the city. After that, it only takes minor editing to further highlight these already present cyberpunk traces.
It’s one of the major reasons why I go ‘meh’ at cyberpunk photographers who are from the US or Australia etc who end up living in typical cyberpunk cities like Tokyo and Seoul, carrying their camera around everywhere and take the same typical cyberpunk pictures again and again. Photography is all about finding beauty and art in the mundane that people easily overlook by bringing it out through the lens and some editing. So when photographers abandon the mundane and choose to go for an already saturated muse then it’s just not that special anymore. In fact, I am highly skeptical of the creativity of such photographers.
As a result, I decided it would be such a cool idea if I took the concept of cyberpunk photography and editing and applied it to where I live right now. If you asked me, Islamabad has a lot of cyberpunk potential, from the markaz in every sector, to the central avenues, to the overpasses on Kashmir Highway to the high rise buildings in Blue Area. There’s also the bonus of the occasional rain that Islamabad gets- another plus point in the cyberpunk aesthetic.
To get this cyberpunk Islamabad project started, I need pictures and I also need to know how to edit them. While I have started working on taking pictures, I decided to play around with editing apps are trying to capture the cyberpunk feel.
The major photo-editing app that I used was Lightroom CC. The best thing about Lightroom is that you can edit one photograph and then copy those edits on to all the other photographs. I did that once I got the look of one right, but then ended up tweaking the others around until I was satisfied. One thing I really liked about cyberpunk editing was how the hues and colors change according to the depth of the image, like the one above.
I also ended up adding some vaporwave concepts through the use of an app called RAVE. It’s a free app and has a lot of backgrounds, stickers, gradients and effects to choose from, as opposed to other vaporwave editors. The quality of the pictures that come out are also high.
In this image, I just layered my edited photograph over a galazy background and the stars in the darkness gave this glittery approach once I turned the transparency up a bit.
I realized that there was way too much purple so I tried changing that up by playing around with the hues and the tints. Since I was using photographs with a lot of light in them (as opposed to the darkness in a night cityscape) it was a little harder to get the right colors since there was such a large spectrum to cover.
I tried, nevertheless to tone down the purple. It didn’t work as well as I hoped and I’m probably going to need to practice and research up a bit more about this area of editing. I don’t have any sort of good editor on my laptop but I do have GIMP installed! Perhaps one day I will try doing cyberpunk edits on GIMP and see how that works out. By washing out the purple here, it seems to give more of a cyberwave look, although it still has that edgy techno-logic color.
So you might be wondering: how can you also edit your photographs into a cyberpunk aesthetic? Here’s a fantastic Youtube tutorial that gives you a brief idea of what to do. Basically, you first need to edit the hues: turn the reds all the way down and the greens all the way up. Edit saturation and balance until satisfied. Fix up contrast and tint the shadows and highlights. Finally, you can either bring up the clarity for a high definition look, or bring it down for a glowy look followed by dehazing.
I hope you enjoyed this post! I will be trying to start this as a bit of a series where I share more cyberpunk edits of Islamabad along with details of how I did the edits for each picture. If you also decide to dabble into cyberpunk photography and editing, I would love to see what you end up creating! Feel free to tweet at me or mention me on your instagram posts. Have a nice day!