Ask any experienced iPhone photographer what third-party app they use and the first answer will always be VSCO Cam. Released in 2012, it was downloaded more than a million times in its first week on sale, and it’s remained in the top 25 ever since.
It’s no wonder why. The app sports a number of free camera filters that according to VSCO, are “the gold standard of film emulation,” with further packs available for in-app purchase. Each filter simulates the look of real film to an astonishing degree. C3 for example, emulates Fuji’s modern negative stocks using harsh contrast and green tones, whereas LV1 replicates the look of Levi’s classic slide film. Each filter is incredibly easy to use via an elegant user interface that begs to be explored. After a few minutes of experimentation, most users will have turned a typical mobile camera image into something that apes a professional shot.
Alongside it’s filters, VSCO Cam also sports a wide range of editing tools, including crop and rotate, temperature, sharpness, fade, shadows, highlights, grain and vignette. Combined with the advanced filters, the app produces startling images that put to shame every other visual-editing app, including both iPhoto and Instagram.
After you’ve edited an image you can upload it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or your own personal Grid – a stylish gallery that anyone can view over the web. It’s possible to follow VSCO users, and see their photos appear in your own person stream. The makers of VSCO Cam aren’t aiming to be the next social network, but the apps ease of use and stunning visual results are certainly making a significant mark in the world of photography.
Import a photo
Using the main menu of VSCO Cam (tap the X button to access it), select the Library option. To import an image from your iPhone, tap the + button at the top of the screen, then select a photo – or multiple photos — from the Camera Roll. Tap the tick button once you’re happy with the selection and VSCO Cam will import the image/s.
How to apply a filter to a photo
Using the sidebar in VSCO Cam, tap the Library button. You’ll see a grid of thumbnails showing any imported images. Select an individual image to edit (you can only edit one at a time), then tap the tool/paintbrush icon at the bottom of the screen. A selection of filters will appear as a row at the bottom of the screen. Tap on one to preview it, or swipe through them right-to-left to see more. Once you’ve selected a filter, tap the filter button once more to fine tune the filter strength using the on-screen slider button. Once you’re happy with the filter, tap the tick icon to apply it to the image.
How to edit a photo
Applying a filter is just the first step to improving an image. To edit its appearance even further, tap the tool/paintbrush button to see the filter list, then tap the small up arrow at the very bottom of the screen. A selection of tools will appear, select the spanner icon. This will reveal a wide range of visual editing tools, including brightness, color, rotate, vignette, shadows and more. Swipe through them from right-to-left to navigate the buttons, and tap on one to see its controls. It might take some time to understand each control, but with practice you’ll be able to create some stunning images. For example, try upping the shadows and highlights to bring out detail in an image.
How to create your own Grid
From the sidebar menu, tap the top most option called VSCO GRID. This is your own personal Grid, any images saved here will be available for others to see on the web. First, however, you’ll need to register. This involves entering your name and email address, the latter of which needs to be confirmed. Once the process has been completed, a blank screen will appear with a plus icon in the top left corner. Tap it to add an edited image from your VSCO app library, you can also include a description of up to 150 characters. Once you’ve added a few images, try viewing them online by going to www.vsco.co. Once at the website, sign in, click the Grid button in the top left corner, select My Feed then search for your name or username.