Aging Tulips, a VSCO Valentine/Review

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope you enjoy this gift: an almost review of VSCOcam!

VSCOcam is a filter preset and image manipulation app for iOS & Android (4.0+) from Visual Supply Co., a maker of apparently excellent film emulation presets and camera profiles for Lightroom (4 & 5) and Adobe Camera RAW (CS6 & CC), with some support for Aperture 3, CS5 & 5.5, and Lightroom 3.

I  haven’t tried their film presets (and probably won’t, since the packs are ~$120 each and I enjoy playing with sliders and fiddling about in Lightroom (not to mention that I have filter packs and add-ons from Topaz Labs and OnOne, as well as some Lightroom and Aperture presets from a number of different individuals and groups, neither of which I use with any regularity)), but I’ve used VSCOcam a number of times, and I really like the looks it produces.

For this post, I decided (as you may be able to tell…) to pick one preset from each of the 19 packs (a sample of 1 or 2 filters from several packs are included in the free version, with 10 add-on packs available at time of publishing ranging in price from $.99 to $1.99, with a bundle of most of the packs available for $5.99). With some of the packs, I had a bit of trouble deciding which one to choose—either because many looked great, or because none really grabbed me at first. I’m pretty sure this is due to the picture I started with, since I’ve used most of the presets at least once, I think.

This isn’t intended to be a full review, especially since I only clicked the filters and didn’t bother to dig into all the other stuff you can do with this great app.

With VSCOcam, it’s easy to adjust filter strength and you can fine tune exposure, temperature,  contrast, tint, and saturation; rotate and crop (to fixed ratios); save and tint highlights and shadows; adjust skin tones; sharpen and add grain or vignettes; and adjust the amount of fade. Since I didn’t really play around with any of that (and rarely do), it’s not fair to call this a real review, even though I’m sticking it up in the Review section of the site… I have an idea to remove all the other photo editing apps from the phone and just roll with VSCOcam for a few months, but who knows if I’ll go quite that far. But I have been looking to re-organize the phone some, and there are a bunch of apps on there that I never or rarely use, and—except for some of the Hipstamatic looks (via Oggl), and maybe Filterstorm (or Filterstorm Neue, though it’s not quite up to the level of its older brother, but getting there)—I could get almost everything out of VSCO with relative ease.

That’s definitely a thought.

Now—and with deepest apologies to the team at VSCO—back when I first got VSCOcam, I waited a bit to start picking up filter packs. And I distinctly remember regretting buying that first add-on. The free version was really enough for me, especially since I didn’t get into the fine-tuning at all, and when I first saw the massive addition—from maybe 7 or 8 presets to 20—I wondered if I had made a mistake. There is just so much to sift through with all those presets, and I get a feeling of the so-called tyranny of choice at times. So if you do pick up this app, do yourself a favor and wait on buying the packs for a bit.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t buy the packs. They’re all useful, and you can get some great looks. But do get used to playing around with all the sliders and tuners first, and maybe see if you can get what you want without resorting to presets before you shell out the $6 to $10 for the all the packs.

Anyway… The original picture was shot with the D7000 and mamiya/sekor 50mm f/2, reversed, at ISO400, 1/250th, f/8, and with the pop-up flash at 1/80th power. The RAW file was processed with Lightroom 5, where I added  +.35 exposure, +4 contrast, -18 highlights, -13 shadows, +11 whites, and +16 clarity before sending it to the phone, where I cropped it to 5×7 in Filterstorm classic and then got to work in VSCOcam.

That’s probably a bit TMI. Apologies. On to the pictures:

All in all, I give VSCOcam 10/10, or three thumbs, or… I really need a system, maybe… I’ll work on that. If you missed the link above and don’t have VSCOcam, pick it up for iOS on iTunes, or for Android in the Google Play store.


*If you’re curious, the cryptic Alphanumeric codes associated with the VSCO filters refer to a general theme of that particular set (the alpha), followed by the filter number (the numeric). In order, the themes are: BW Moody (B); Vibrant (C); Mellow (F); Portraits (G); Analog (K); Fade (M); Instant (P); Warm (S); Moody (T); BW Tone (X); Levis (LV) [sponsored by Levis]; SE (Street Etiquette); A (Analog); H (Polychrome); N (New/Modern); O (Legacy).


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