If you've been following me on either Facebook or Instagram then you may have noticed a fair few of my photos have been edited and tagged with #vscocam. You may have been wondering what this "VSCO Cam" is. You may have also been curious as to why I, a photographer who would normally edit RAW files in Lightroom and Photoshop, would be using a phone app so frequently. First things first.
What is VSCO Cam?
Basically, VSCO Cam is a photo taking, editing and sharing app made for phones and tablets by the people at Visual Supply Co (VSCO). When I say editing I do indeed refer to a range of filters that you may apply to your photos. When I say filters I don't mean crazy, crush and destroy your photos filters. I mean good filters.
Dead trees are similar to live ones in that they look pretty. Fujifilm XE-1 18-55mm @ 18mm, f/8 & 1/800. Processed with the s3 filter.
Rather than trying to push colours and contrast too far, I've found that many of VSCO's filters make subtle changes and keep the quality of my photos reasonable. Admittedly, I have found that the quality of the photos is decreased upon importing them into the app and there are indeed some filters which do push things too far. My least favourite of these are P1 to P9 which try to emulate instant films. That last thing is an important thing to note: many of these filters attempt to copy how films would interpret the colours and contrasts of a scene.
Many of these filters attempt to emulate how films would interpret the colours and contrasts of a scene.
Another point to take from that is the filters are named with a letter (denoting what set they belong to) followed by a number. While at first this can be confusing, it encourages you to try out different filters and see their results instead of simply deciding if you want a "clean" filter and not a "moody" filter.
A handy feature in the app is that you can rearrange the order of the filters. As you can see below, I've placed my favourite filters first all the way to my least favourite. The Ps are at the back.
Fun fact: C1-C3 and F1-F3 are among my favourite filters along with S1-S6
Why do I use VSCO Cam?
The answer to this question is actually pretty simple: it makes it a lot easier to share photos. Be it to Facebook, Instagram or VSCO's own service, I've found it a lot easier to share photos frequently.
Thanks to VSCO Cam I've found it a lot easier to share photos frequently.
There are three main reasons VSCO Cam helps make sharing photos easier for me:
Reason Number One
Due to the wi-fi capability of my camera (via an Eye-fi card) my images are almost immediately uploaded to my mobile phone. Contrast this with the somewhat time-consuming process of going home, grabbing my laptop, opening Lightroom and importing photos into it and the ability to send images across to my phone sounds much better.
For example, I am able to take a photo of a Pilbara train (see down below), edit it and then upload it before I get home and put it on my computer.
In the world of instant sharing, my Eye-fi card really helps.
Reason Number Two
Editing photos in VSCO Cam is simpler than editing them in a full on PC/Mac program and is possibly also more enjoyable. Access to dozens of filters (note: I did purchase some of the ones I use, but there are a few good free ones) means that it is easier to experiment with different looks.
Filters aren't everything in this app though and the app has an intuitive user interface for changing the contrast, exposure, saturation and more of your photos. It also holds tools for fading the shadows of your photos, adding a vignette to your image, tinting highlights and shadows and more.
By making editing quick and intuitive I am able to edit more photos sooner and have them ready to upload.
For this image, taken on my phone, I used a filter before editing contrast and sharpness and adding some fading.
Reason Number Three
Sharing is simply simple. Since VSCO Cam is a mobile application you can directly share to other apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also share to pretty much any other app on your phone through a "More" section and the "Save to Gallery" button. This means you can easily send photos via your messaging application or bluetooth or email or really whatever you want.
VSCO also has its own social media space called the "Grid". This is a pretty unique thing where photos are shared by bearded hipsters of other bearded hipsters and the things they do. Like drink coffee and be square. Get it? I said square, as in "hip to be square". That was funny, right? No? Well, moving on then... While you can follow these bearded hipsters, you cannot 'like' their photos other than in the non-figurative "I really like that photo" kind of way.
The "Grid" is the perfect place for bearded hipsters to post photos of other bearded hipsters and the things that they do. Like drink coffee.
You also can't see how many followers or views you have had. This means I could be a VSCO Cam celebrity without even knowing it. Of course if I was then my photos would show up in the curated "Grid" that everyone sees. Hmmmm... They must know that I'm neither bearded nor a hipster.
Some of the sharing options to the left / My personal "Grid" to the right.
Some Quick Tips.
You don't always have to use filters
Event though the main thing that people will get and use VSCO Cam for are the filters, you don't always have to use these. Maybe try skipping the filter-application-part and go straight to the photo-editing-part. Then try changing the contrast, saturation and (a favourite of bearded hipsters everywhere) the fade.
Be careful with fade
Speaking of fade, be careful with it. Yes it does look pretty but it might get annoying if every photo you share is faded. This is probably personal opinion since I like most of my photos to be pretty punchy with deep blacks and good contrast. However, personal opinion or not, watch that fade.
Keep it simple silly
Don't overcomplicate the process. To go back on my first tip, filters are a great way to do this since they make edits quick and simple. If you want to go deeper into the editing tools like I do then go for it. But don't put so much work into it that you get annoyed so much that you don't like the end result because of it. Have fun.
Filters don't make a great photo, you do
Don't depend on pretty colours to make your photos look great. The way to make your photos stand above the rest is not by adding the perfect filter on it but by focusing on your composition. Everyone can take a nice photo of the reds and oranges of the sunset but you can make yours stand out by placing that big gumtree in the middle of the scene, or by having a person on the rule of thirds lines, or by keeping the horizon straight. That last one's a biggy for me. Yes I like the blues of the ocean in your picture but that horizon is crooked. That maybe sounds a little pretentious but it is so annoying #photographerproblems.
The "Grid" is a great space for inspiration
VSCO Cam's "Grid" is an awesome place to get some inspiration and see how people are applying pretty filters on their photos and using great composition. Since the thing is curated by actual humans along with bearded hipsters the content is a step above the usual stuff you might see on Facebook and Instagram. If you download the app then be sure to check it out.
Images Edited w/VSCO Cam
Now that you've heard me rave on about the app, here are some examples of pictures I have edited in it. There's quite a range here from Albany, to some more recent ones in the Pilbara.
Let me know if you like them both figuratively and non-figuratively ;)
From near the top of Bluff Knoll. Fujifilm XE-1 with 18-55mm @ 18mm, f/11 & 1/420. Processed with the hb1 filter.
Trains of the Pilbara. Fujifilm XE-1 with 27mm @ f/7.1 & 1/680. Processed with s2.
Albany's New Year fireworks go off with a bang. Fujifilm XE-1 18-55mm @ 55mm, f/4 & 1.5 sec. Processed with hb2.
Albany wind farm in glorious black and white with an Instagram crop. Fujifilm XE-1 with Pentax 50mm f1.4 vintage lens @ 1/80. Processed with b5.
Karratha's hills at the golden hour. Fujifilm XE-1 18-55mm @ 55mm, f6.4 & 1/180. Processed with m6.
Wise young owl. Fujifilm XE-1 18-55mm @ 55mm, f/5.6 & 1/100. Processed with t1.
A walk in the Karratha hills. Fujifilm XE-1 27mm @ f/11 & 1/680. Processed with f1.
Them water tanks in Karratha are pretty. Fujifilm XE-1 27mm 1/1000 f/11. Processed with f3.
People liked this photo on Instagram so I guess it must be okay: "Surfers wait for a wave while ships wait to get into Fremantle". Nexus 5 1/1700 f/2.4. Processed with f1.
Hope you enjoyed this post, and that it wasn't too long. If you "liked"/"I really liked this post" then be sure to follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/provingsunshine) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/joelrg000/).
Find out more about Proving Sunshine at: