This week, I’m reviewing the VSCO app - previously known as the VSCO Cam. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will probably be familiar with Instagram. You can kind of think of the the VSCO app as an alternative camera, editing and photo-sharing app and ecosystem, without the targeted advertisements, offering really high quality results.
The camera function included high-end advanced manual control and the editor offers an extensive selection of superb film-like filters and crucial adjustment tools. If you count yourself as more than a casual photographer, I think you’ll really value the tools on offer in this app, especially the quality and subtlety of the film filters on offer, even in the free version of the app.
How to use VSCO app
The basic app interface is split into three main sections for capturing, editing, and sharing your photos. One of the plus points (or downsides possibly) is that the app has a very clean and minimal user-interface. Many of the tools just appear as simple icons, so it might take a little bit of clicking around and navigating to get to know the app and all that might be possible. So, for that reason, I would say that for some people, you might find the learning curve a little bit steeper than most apps.
Let’s start at the beginning - taking a photograph. Tap on the and tap to engage the camera.
Once you’re there, tap on the shutter button to take a photo. On iOS, you can tap on the DSCO option to create an animated GIF - nice! You have full manual control of the camera functions, including shutter speed, exposure compensation, manual focus, manual white balance, and also the capability to shoot in either JPEG, PNG, or RAW formats. Now RAW is really powerful if you want to export your file to do some serious work on it, but for most casual or enthusiast photographers, JPEG is probably fine.
It’s also worth remembering that you can separate your focus and exposure points too. To separate the focus and exposure points, tap the screen with two fingers. You’ll now see two circles on the screen – one for focus and one for exposure.
You can drag these two circles to any position you want. Drag the focus point to the part of the scene that you want in sharp focus. Drag the exposure point to the area of the scene that you want correctly exposed.
You also have full control over the flash, whether you want guiding gridlines on your screen to help you to compose the image, as well as advanced tilt and level lines, so you can make sure that your masterpiece if perfectly aligned.
So, you’ve captured some great images, but you’d like to work on them a little. So, let’s quickly explore the edit function. Your Studio is where you’ll find your Library of images (and you can save them to your Camera Roll too).
Tap on to access your Studio, and then tap the image you wish to edit then tap on
Along the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a row of presets that you can use - either in the free app, or a far greater set of options if you pay for the yearly subscription that is available.
Tap on the preset you want to try. You can also adjust the strength of the filter of that preset. In other editing apps, preset filters can often be quite harsh and you can easily ruin an image if you’re not careful. But the VSCO filters are more subtle and tend to enhance the natural beauty of your photos rather than making huge, drastic changes to the colours and tones.
Once you’ve confirmed that and the image is looking in the right ball-park for the feel you’re shooting for, tap confirm and Tap on to access your toolkit.
Here’s where you can use the toolkit items to fine tune your image. If you wish to see more toolkit items, swipe to the right on the toolkit at the bottom of the screen.
After you have completed your edits, tap "Save" to save your edits. And you’re done!
Next, you can Share your image. To share or export an image, select it and tap , where you can add a caption to the image and share it on your VSCO Profile, save to your Camera Roll, and / or share to other networks like Facebook or Instagram. You can also post them to the Photography Forum on the giffgaff website for others to see to.
One of the interesting and informative things about VSCO is the Explore and Discover sections.
You can tap on to access your Feed. Here, you will find updates from the VSCO Master Collection and from the creators that you follow.
Also, To search for content on iOS, tap on and you will be in the Discover section. You are able to search for people, images, and journal posts on VSCO by tapping on . VSCO curate work for you to see and enjoyunder different themes and subjects. One of the great things about VSCO are the short tutorials under the VSCO X Education section (available for paid app subscribers), including tips and tricks for using the app, and detailed tutorials and inspiration for your own photography.
The VSCO app is available on both iOS and Android platforms. It is available in a free version. There is also a premium VSCO X version available in the UK but charged in US dollars - 1 year of VSCO X, the paid subscription is US$19.99.
Why pay for VSCO X (yearly paid subscription at US$19.99)?
There are a few reasons why you might want to do this:
Don’t worry about likes and comments - just focus on the photographs that are being shared in the VSCO communities you belong to
The presets available are amazing, and there are LOTS of them. In fact, in can be quite overwhelming. And you can use them to save images to your Camera Roll to share elsewhere.
Lots of pro-photographers use VSCO X. They’re probably on to something.
That said, it’s pretty intense getting into the app, so if you already have a photographic workflow that works for you, try the 7 day free subscription trial to see if its something you might want to use. It’s well worth dipping your toe in the water to see if it suits you. And you really can create and share some gorgeous images.
What do you think about VSCO? Do you think it might be useful for you in your photography? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.