Tutorial: How To Give Your Photos A Grunge Vibe How To Give Your Photos A Grunge Vibe

Tutorial: How To Give Your Photos A Grunge Vibe

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We often hear the word grunge in photography nowadays even though it was originally coined in the early 90s to describe a music genre. Grunge is in fact a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in Seattle and nearby towns roughly 30 years ago. Grunge music is often described as dark, ominous, and portraying peculiar emotions and states of mind that deal with social alienation, apathy and a desire for freedom.
Just like grunge music itself, grunge photography is meant to challenge the viewers and make them enjoy an aesthetic realm that can’t be described as positive or beautiful in a traditional sense.
The following tips and tricks will help you understand better what grunge really is (visually speaking!) and how to create a grunge vibe in your photography.

Analog Vs Digital Grunge Photography

Grunge photography, also known as ‘lo-fi’, is often associated with the use of old lenses, toy lenses, and instant cameras. Since this kind of equipment gives the impression of low quality, it’s not so easy to replicate it with modern DSLRs and lenses. However, it’s possible to mimic most of these effects (like unusual color balance, vignettes, grain) using various editing apps or Lightroom and Photoshop for those who are into more serious post-processing.

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Photo by Andrew Amistad on Unsplash

Advice For Analog Enthusiasts

For those whose are truly into analog photography, grunge style may be a great way to learn a couple of tricks when it comes to developing film. In order to add a grunge vibe to analog photographs, you can experiment with wrong color balance or perhaps even scratch the film with various utensils in order to give it an unusual texture.
If you want some grainy vintage images, you can use a high-ISO film, like 400 ISO or even more. You can also overdevelop the film by 3 stops or more to see what happens. The longer you develop the film, the higher the grain.
You don’t have to use a roll of color film for grunge photography – black and white grunge pictures also have an interesting vibe since they usually look more vintage than color photographs.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

The Best Apps For Grunge Style Photography

These photo apps are extremely useful and user-friendly because they can help anyone turn their regular photos into a piece of grunge aesthetics. Even though these apps are not as advanced as Photoshop and Lightroom, some of them offer a solid quality when it comes to grunge effects. The most common app for such effects is called Snapseed – it’s one of the most versatile photo apps and it’s free as well.
Besides Snapseed, other well-known apps for grunge photography are PicGrunger (specialized for grunge effects!) and Mextures (great for applying textures and light leaks).

Photo by James Marcom on Unsplash

How to Choose The Right Location

Grunge photography is not all about styling and post-processing – choosing the right location for your grunge session matters a lot!
Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose if you want to take grunge photos at some abandoned place or perhaps at the city center. While it’s very common to take grunge photos at some desolate areas, you don’t have to stick to this concept.
Grunge photography doesn’t have to equal urban exploration. Even the busiest city areas can have a certain grunge vibe – you just have to be a careful observer!

Photo by Luiz Henrique Nazario on Unsplash

Minding The Details in Grunge

Instead of just taking photos of interesting places and models that look like as if they are still trapped in the 90s, you can shoot various details that also carry a certain grunge atmosphere. Such photos will be much more unique since they don’t have typical grunge references like abandoned buildings and flannel shirts.
Lighting is also an important part of grunge photography as well as colors – instead of altering these two things in post-processing, you can try to find places that already feature an interesting array of fade-out colors and have harsh lighting.

Photo by Tommaso Pecchioli on Unsplash
You can use a grunge approach in various genres of photography, which makes it a rather versatile style. It can looks great in portraits, street and architectural photography but also in more commercial genres, such as fashion and product photography. Because of this, it’s really valuable to understand the basics of grunge aesthetics so that you can use it for the right occasion.

About the author


Jasenka is a passionate photographer with a background in design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her stock images at Shutterstock or get to know her better here.


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