Photographing Steampunk

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CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

"Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery,[1] especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative historyof the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognisably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt and China Miéville.

Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The term steampunk's first known appearance was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created even as far back as the 1950s or 1960s."Wikipedia


What is steampunk? Well is is simply a style where people dress in unconventional costumes depicting various themes from Sci-fi and other early century novelist's works.

In essence the costumes and props have to feature something that is powered by steam. Sounds strange but what costume design or theme isn't?

This project like many others requires that the photographer or designer be creative and understands the concept of steampunk well. One has to also design a location or set that fits the theme.

Although there are many locations that can be adapted to fit the theme. It is always better if you can create one to fit a theme thus you keep the utmost control and everything can be adapted to fit within the costume designs.

If done correctly the theme does provide one with very good photogenic opportunities and expands the photographic horizon of any photographer willing to involve himself in it.

You have to keep in mind that many photographers already do photo shoots for weddings and other events that feature a specific theme.

Steampunk is just one more theme but it is also a fun project to be involved in.

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CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

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Don't panic if you want to do the project but think that it will be complicated to create steam powered machinery or elaborate costumes.

If you do a search you will see that many are just a costume which most always involves some sort of tall hat, tall boots, eyeglasses or a monocle and some make up.

Most of the props can be made with some ingenuity and some shiny metal parts or painted to look like metal.

The beauty is that although there are many places where to by some of the props, the majority of enthusiasts who do the theme are "Do It Yourself" individuals who relish the opportunity of creating something from scratch.

Again, the best method before you start on the project is to research several of the sites that offer advice into how to do your own, including the costume itself.

CC BY-SA 3.0
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

Another aspect of the theme is that it lends itself very well for it to be shot on a green (chroma key) screen and substitute it later for a digital background.

If you look at the included images you can notice that some contain what appear to be digital backgrounds.

A chroma key backdrop is nothing more than a neon type cloth or neon blue. This makes it easier for a digital program to separate it from other more natural or real colors.

This is perhaps the best way to shoot the theme as you can really turn out impressive scenes when you combine a fully costumed individual with a good theme fitting background.

The resulting images are likely to serve as point of sale props for future themed events, photographic publications, eBook purposes and others.

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CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

I would suggest that before you get fully involved in the theme, to start out with simple designs and few props.

Starters may be things like some leather items, a top hat and monocles. Spray paint in chrome, gold, black,brass, other antique finishes and waxes such as Rub n' Buff will make the surfaces stand out.

There are also many everyday articles that can be adapted to fit the theme such as plastic bottles, gears, fittings, pipes, wrenches and many other tools.

These may be just enough to get you going at first until you are sure that you can do the theme well and you enjoy it also.

Test the "waters" as it may and see how successful your images are at depicting the theme.

If you find yourself loving the theme and your images show this, then perhaps dwelling more deeply into the theme may be a course of action.

Steampunk Props

CC BY-SA 3.0 Edited for effect. You may see original by following link
CC BY-SA 3.0 Edited for effect. You may see original by following link | Source

With today's demand for more "out of the traditional realm" when doing events like weddings, this opens the door for such themed photography and since these are not the traditional photographic coverage, it can draw more attention to any photographer who chooses to specialize in it.

The key is to do everything as well as it can be made. If your costumes, props or settings are nothing short of amazing, the shoot can quickly assume the aura of cheesiness or ridiculous.

Be careful and plan everything down to the last detail before you decide that you will specialize in such themed photography.

Chroma Key screen in use

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CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez

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2 comments

JanMaklak profile image

JanMaklak 2 years ago from Canada

Great article Luis. Steam Punk is so weird yet so much fun.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

JanMaklak: Thank you

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