VSCO, or Visual Supply Co, has long been known among photographers for their incredible film emulation presets for programs like Adobe Lightroom and Aperture. These presets take unedited digital photographs and turn them easily into beautiful creations that mimic the look and feel of various types of professional camera film.
VSCO Cam is the company’s app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. With the dramatic improvement of smartphone cameras and the explosion of their use in the last few years, and considering that the iPhone is the most used camera in the world, it made perfect sense for VSCO to produce an app that brought their film presets to iOS. Let’s take a close look at VSCO Cam and see why, if you’re into iPhone photography, this app is a must have.
Design – Since VSCO Cam was designed by a company that creates software for professional photographers, it’s no surprise that the app is artistic and beautiful. VSCO Cam uses clean text and straight edges in its interface that give it a sophisticated look. These elements differentiate the app from iOS 7’s design while making photos look great. When tapped, a menu button that lives in the lower left of VSCO Cam slides in a menu tray on the left side of the screen. This tray can also be accessed in most areas in the app by swiping from left to right. The menu tray uses simplistic and elegantly designed icons to denote the app’s different features. Once you tap on one of these features, VSCO Cam’s stripped down interface gives preference to the photos, whether you’ve viewing your own shots in your Library or others’ in the app’s Grid section. VSCO Cam’s clean design gives an air of professionalism that is fitting for an app like this.
Features – VSCO Cam is full of features. If I could sum up the purpose of the app it would be to inspire you to create beautiful, professional looking photos. Let’s walk through each of the app’s features one by one, starting from the top of the menu tray and working our way downward.
Home – The Home feature in VSCO Cam serves as a launching point to become inspired by discovering and following other VSCO users. It includes a Find People search function and also a button that will take you to the second feature in the menu tray, the VSCO Grid. We’ll touch on that in a second. The Home feature also allows you to set up a URL for your very own Grid so that you can share your photos with the VSCO community.
Grid – The next feature of VSCO Cam is the Grid, which is a curated running feed of the community’s photos. Seeing the photography of other VSCO Cam users can be a huge inspiration to get out there and shoot – there are some incredibly talented iPhone photographers out there. You could get lost in these photos, just scrolling through the Grid for a very long time. VSCO Cam’s filters do wonders for photos taken using the iPhone’s camera.
Journal – After the Grid comes the Journal. The Journal is essentially a publication that VSCO puts together and then displays on its app. It features different photographers who use VSCO Cam, updates from the VSCO Cam team, different events where VSCO Cam was used, and Weekly Selects which are roundups of great photos that were uploaded to VSCO Cam during the week.
Store – Next comes the Store. While VSCO Cam is a free app and comes pre-loaded with a number of great filters, it also offers different filter packages for purchase. These come in the form of bundles called Collections and individual filter packs. Most individual packs are 99 cents, though there are a couple available for free. At the time of writing, Collections ranged in price from $1.99 up to $5.99. There are some great savings to be found among the Store’s Collections, so check it out if you’re interested in adding more filters to VSCO Cam.
Library – Here’s where things start to get personal. The Library is where all your photos are stored. Two icons at the top of your screen allow you to sort your photos (particularly useful if you have lots of them in your library) and change the way their thumbnails are displayed (small, medium, or large). Below these buttons is a prominent “+” button, which allows you to import photos from your iPhone or iPod Touch’s Camera Roll. This is great because it means that it’s easy to add a photo into VSCO Cam if you took it with your device’s stock Camera app. Below the “+” button are the thumbnails of your photos. Tapping on one will highlight it and bring up several options including flagging the photo, editing the photo, sharing the photo, or deleting the photo. I’ll describe editing photos with VSCO Cam in depth in a moment. First let’s talk about the App’s final feature, the camera.
Camera – VSCO Cam includes a simple Camera feature that you can access by tapping on the camera icon in the menu tray. The Camera feature is very stripped down, offering one large prominent shutter button at the bottom of the screen. There are also settings buttons at the top of the screen that allow you to switch between your device’s front and rear camera and control things like flash, grid and leveling features, lock the white balance, and more. As I mentioned above, you can also import photos from the stock iOS Camera app and then edit them using VSCO Cam, something that I do frequently.
Editing Photos in VSCO Cam – VSCO Cam has to have some of the most powerful editing features of any app on iOS. Accessing them is easy. Simply tap on any photo in your VSCO Cam Library and then hit the wrench and paintbrush icon.
The first screen you’ll be taken to is VSCO Cam’s filter selection interface. All of your installed filters appear at the bottom of the screen. Tapping one applies it to your photo. Tapping the filter again allows you to control its strength using a slider. This is where VSCO Cam shines. The filters are brilliant and it’s almost guaranteed that there is one that will make your photo look amazing.
After you’ve applied and configured a filter you like, you can access many more editing features by tapping on the white bar at the bottom of the screen and then on the wrench icon that appears. VSCO Cam’s other editing features include exposure, temperature, contrast, rotation, crop, fade, vignette, tint, saturation, shadows save, highlights save, sharpen, grain, highlights tint, shadows tint, and skin tone.
Tapping again on the white bar at the bottom of the screen allows you to undo changes made to the photo, revert it back to how it looked when you took it or imported it, discard the changes made to the photo, or save them.
Here is a photo before and after editing with VSCO Cam:
Conclusion – With VSCO Cam’s professional filters combined with its powerful editing features using it almost feels like having Adobe Lightroom on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Add to that its Grid feature, which allows you to discover and be inspired by others’ photography, and the app’s price tag, free, and you have an app that everyone who’s interested in iOS photography should have on their device. Give VSCO Cam a try. It can take your photography to the next level.
VSCO Cam is available for free on the App Store. For more information on VSCO Cam or Visual Supply Co’s other products including their filters for Adobe Lightroom and Aperture, check out their website.