If you’re looking for grunge photoshoot ideas, you’re in luck!
The grit and distressed elements that make up grunge photography are inspiring, but sometimes hard to capture.
In this guide, I’ll cover all things grunge photography — including ideas, examples, and tips.
Key Elements of the Grunge Aesthetic
- Distressed textures
- Dark and moody tones
- Raw, unfiltered emotions
- Vintage or retro elements
Table of Contents
17 Fun Grunge Photoshoot Ideas
Grunge photoshoots are always fun because they offer so many ways to shake up settings, subjects, and more.
Let’s dig into some ideas and tips below, starting with locations.
1. Roam a record store
Your grunge photoshoot location is highly important.
Record stores full of vintage treasures or albums with grunge music are great examples of grunge settings as captured above by Karsten Winegart.
2. Wander around abandoned buildings
A dark, brooding subject and setting will easily take your photos to the grunge level.
Abandoned buildings in grunge-rooted cities like Seattle and Chicago or gloomy buildings like the one shown above by Andrew Amistad is the perfect example of a dark, moody setting that sets the grunge scene.
Abandoned buildings are everywhere, so keep an eye out for some near you and plan your next grunge photoshoot there!
3. Leverage textured walls
As noted above, any kind of abandoned building will typically meet the moody aesthetic you want, but don’t overlook grungy walls mixed into otherwise classic settings!
Take the wall above for example, as shown by Rod Long, where you not only see the grit and textures of the wall, but the gorgeous turquoise door that’s slightly neglected too.
4. Find glamor in garages
Grunge photography is built on finding beauty in the different and taking inspiration from the edgy.
Move beyond expected locations like parks and beaches and find the glamor in the dim lighting of garages or storage rooms full of gadgets and dirty tools, as James Qualtrough does above.
5. Jazz up a junkyard
Junkyards are full of discarded items that still hold a lot of value!
Junkyards not only paint a vivid picture of your setting, they’re also full of rock and roll type cars and props you can leverage to create the ideal grunge photography scene.
6. Find beauty in barns
As with any style of photography, you can approach grunge photography from a variety of styles, including landscape, architecture, fashion, and more.
The best genres of grunge photography will continue using unique settings like grungy barns, as shown in this simply gorgeous photo above by Timothy Eberly
7. Explore empty old rooms
There’s a special kind of beauty inside an abandoned building.
While the exteriors can be interesting, interiors with rusty or discolored furniture left behind on dilapidated floors can create the best grunge pictures.
8. Get creative in coffeehouses
Coffeehouses tend to be innately moody and artsy.
The one captured above by Matiinu Ramadhan with its moody lighting, dark décor, and minimalist design is exceptionally grungy in the best way.
9. Take it to the streets
Capture grunge photography with street style using subways, bus stops, and other forms of public transportation as the setting.
You can easily create moody scenes in bustling spots as Sebastian Pochiecha does above.
10. Find graffiti
Street art and graffiti will also take your photos to the next level when going for grunge.
And while the message above photographed by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez is super fitting, any kind of public art will enhance your image.
11. Experiment with eclectic subjects
Subjects with raw emotions are tremendously helpful in mastering the right aesthetic in grunge photography.
Subjects with visible piercings, tattoos, cigarettes, and other conventionally taboo things will elevate ordinary photos into grunge-level images.
The photo above by Jordi Asmara uses dark and moody tones and dim lighting while spotlighting the bad boys, arguably the high school rejects, who perfectly embody grunge.
12. Pinup-inspired portraits
Consider a pinup model or eclectic individual for your next grunge photoshoot.
The history of pinup models like Bettie Page became popular during WWII when sultry images were sent to soldiers overseas.
Today, that raw wartime style can shine through in grunge photography with black-and-white portraits of edgy models, as shown in the image above by Sonyah Kross.
13. Choose the right clothing
The grunge aesthetic can rely heavily on wardrobe — thrift and secondhand clothing with that lived-in, unpolished look will help a lot in grunge photography.
Think of the grunge music from Nirvana for inspiration or Kurt Cobain in the 90s: a little dishevelled, lots of band tees, vintage patterns, and so on.
For women, it’s usually a little androgynous with patterned slacks, dingy flannel shirts, and utility jackets. A leather dress will also work!
14. Focus on footwear
As is the case with any look, shoes make a big difference in the outfit.
A single pair of Doc Martens or chunky platform boots in a shot shown above by Syd Wachs can instantly transport even a low-quality photo into high-quality grunge material.
15. Make magic with makeup
You can’t be afraid to enlist the help of dark makeup and wild hair when taking grunge photos.
Edgy makeup can easily transform a typical model into a grunge band member lookalike that amplifies your grunge images.
Take the subject above with heavy eye makeup and dark lipstick captured by Brian Wangenheim, she’s the epitome of the grunge aesthetic!
16. Juxtapose setting and subject
Place your dark, moody subject in a traditionally delicate, feminine setting like a rosebush or a flower bed to get the moodiest of images.
The contrast illustrated above between the grunge vibe of the model and the airy femininity of the setting is pure magic.
17. Unexpected angles
In addition to punky wardrobe and makeup, an interesting angle can help you land the best grunge photos.
The shot above by Matthew Molony ticks all the aesthetic, angle, and subject boxes.
How to Get a Grunge Aesthetic with Your Photos
Achieving the grunge aesthetic is easy with the help of good presets, appropriate settings, creative camera choices, and photo editing software, so let’s dive in!
Choose the right camera
While you can achieve grunge photos by playing around with camera settings and editing techniques, you can also take advantage of specific cameras to nail an authentic grunge photoshoot.
Pinhole and Lomo cameras are excellent analog devices that bring that treasured lo-fi aesthetic you want to give your grunge pictures a retro vibe. I’d recommend a Diana F by Lomography or the Goodman Scura 35.
Although these camera choices can take some of the pressure off photo editing later to get the look you’re after, you can still rely on settings, subjects, and editing without buying a new camera.
Select settings carefully for grunge photography
While you can rely a bit on the setting and subject to achieve grunge photography, you’ll also want to pay attention to your camera settings during your grunge photoshoot.
Even with a standard Nikon or Canon, you can snag that grunge style using a higher ISO of 400 and up and a high fixed aperture between f/8 and f/11 to get that gritty grain you’re looking for.
Try film scratching your grunge photos
Directly messing with the film itself is a great technique any grunge photographer should consider.
The photo above from Scott Evans is a solid example of scratching film to add grit and texture.
Play up the post-processing process
The photo editing process in Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom can also greatly increase the grunge vibe of your photos.
You’ll want to start by boosting shadows and decreasing highlights to magnify the depth and texture of your grunge photos.
Lightroom is also a great post-processing tool for achieving distressed textures that are quintessentially grunge using the texture slider to enhance or minimize textures.
Lightroom’s presets also offer an easy way to add a vintage look and some grain and noise to your photos to make them grungier.
You should also play around with the Clarity and Textures sliders in particular, in order to give a grungey look to your photos.
If using Photoshop, try switching to the Abstract tab and using the gold-crimson aesthetic.