I’ve been spending the last few years (alongside working and writing) developing my photography and photoshop skills. During lockdown, I had a lot of free time that I put towards doing online courses and practising with the aim to start selling images. This culminated in Eastercon 2022 where I did display several images in the art show and even sold a couple.
Working to get images with a SF or fantasy theme is difficult and takes a lot of work. You can’t just dress a model up in costume, give her some props and snap the image and call it a day. To make a truly good image takes time and effort in post production and sometimes even a lot of luck.
I recently went along to a workshop run by The Creatives Workshop team who are based in AWOL studios in Manchester for their Cyberpunk workshop. This event was run in the studio, using all the equipment and props they have there, and was featuring the amazing theDemonfoxx as the model.
We went through a number of sets and costume changes, all with the theme ‘Cyberpunk’ and everyone involved got some excellent images.
I’m going to talk about three of mine and how they were edited.
The first is the silhouette seen at the top of this post. I mentioned a lot of luck near the start of this post and this is a perfect example. This was not ‘played for and got’, this was one I actually considered a failure because the exposure was not right. Not enough light on the subject… so we did play with the lights and did get a version of this that worked with the details of the face and everything in place. However, when editing, I looked at this image again and reassessed it. A bit of a minor tweak (increase the blacks, add a bit more contrast) and it comes out really nice. Especially the way the glasses are visible because they light up.
Like one of those Apple adverts from the mid 2000s…
Which is definitely a mood that could be considered ‘cyberpunk’ depending on how cynical you are about the Apple corporate empire and its role in creating dystopian futures. So, in the end, that image stayed.
The second one I want to talk about was this portrait.
This one had a bit more of an edit.
The original was taken using a 50mm prime lens, very close to the subject who was lit with LEDs – a blue one and a green one, though the green seems to have overwhelmed it mostly. The basic edits were the sort usually done for portraits. I cleared the skin a little, enhanced the colour of the eyes (though they were already strong in the original) and some basic adjustments for exposure. After that I started adding things…
The glasses with the red LED were real in the original but a lot of the other visible tech and lights were added. In this, I was trying to think about the cyberpunk genre and how it may have changed over time. The original ideas come from the 80s and technology is different now than the writers of the genre might have predicted. We are now two years beyond the date given in the RPG for the Cyberpunk dystopia (2020) and technology is sleeker and more discrete than expected. In fact, the more recent releases of the concept change it to 2077 (the computer game) and Cyberpunk Red (the tabletop RPG).
- One of the eyes is a cybereye. I achieved this by using an image of the lights on one of my charging blocks pasted over the eyes and using Screen blending mode to make it look like it is under the cornea. I did the same with the underside of one of my own glucose monitoring sensors after I had removed it to replace. There were visible circuitry on there and because the device is a circle it is easy to paste it and blend it into the circular part of the eye. Unfortunately, you have to zoom in quite close to see the detail of the circuits but the lights are visible. But then, the technology is supposed to be subtle…
- There is a set of ports on her head. This is a bit more old school Cyberpunk as, the way things are headed now, such things as what Cyberpunk authors called ‘netrunning’ would very likely be wireless now. But, I wanted some ports in so maybe she’s an ‘old skool’ netrunner who prefers to jack in direct than suffer the slow wireless speeds. These are basically just USB ports. I used a bit of blending but also some embossing to make the skin around them pucker as if something is implanted under it.
- On one of the breasts there is… something… what this is can be up to your imagination. Another port? A control panel? A Tony Stark style implanted power source? This was a photo of the applicator for the glucose monitor sensor. Again, it was blended and worked to make it look like it was under the skin. This time, an Overlay blend was used.
Overall, I am quite pleased with this image. There are some flaws I might do better next time to eliminate and I am still not 100% sure about the ports as they don’t look quite right but on the whole I am happy with it.
The final image is one that I titled ‘Transhuman Nightmare’ when I posted it to my Purpleport portfolio.
Here we have wires, LEDs and a metal shower hose pressed into service as cybernetic tentacles with some other light effects used to add drama. Transhumanism is the philosophy of merging humanity with machines in different ways and underlies some of the ideas of the Cyberpunk genre.
I hope you enjoyed the images here as much as I have enjoyed making them…