Super-upgrade your iPhone photography with VSCO

lemuro brown leather case with tele and wide angle lens on the side

If you are investing in smartphones photography tools (like a detachable smartphone lens), it’s usually because you want to shoot stunning pictures and upload them on the go. Without having to do too much work on your laptop.

That’s why you should consider editing directly on your iPhone. And a great tool for this purpose is VSCO, one of the best free photography-apps in the Apple Store.

So, in this post, we’re going to explain what VSCO is exactly and why you should use it.  Once you download it, we’ll also give you a few essential tips to make the most out of it.

WHAT it is

VSCO first appeared in 2012, as a way to quickly edit pictures on your mobile device. The end goal is uploading beautiful photos on social media, Instagram in primis, and the idea is that you could drop a fancy DSLR and still shoot masterpieces with your phone.

Because good photography, now, is for everyone.

WHY you should download it

It truly makes mobile photo-editing easy and intuitive. Naturally, there are also other competitor apps out there, but VSCO is free (with the possibility of a premium version), and its interface is at the same time user-friendly and complex enough for highly personalized edits.  

You’ll understand better the extent of VSCO’s editing power in the next section, where we’ll talk about its editing tools in detail.

VSCO (free, with in-app purchases)

VSCO Mobile Photo AppImage Owner: uncrate

iOS App Download

THE BASICS (filters, temperature, exposure, crop, clarity and whatnot)

Some of these are just things to keep in mind when using the app; others are authentic life-hacks.

Be Consistent with Filters

For instance, let’s consider the app’s filters. They are the best solution for small and quick edits, as you just need to select one to apply and you are good to go.

You can choose, in VSCO, from a wide range of models (some of which need to be purchased) and their use is generally a matter of personal touch.

What we really recommend, though, is that you pay attention to your style. Let your followers know which one is your “signature” set of filters; don’t vary too often, or you’ll come across as confused and uninspired. (Although private experimentation is always good, obviously.

Just be consistent with what you share.)

Life-hack #1

The multi-layered hat trick. If you want to use more than one filter on your photo just apply one, save it, and then apply it a new one again. Repeat the process until you are satisfied with your work.

Adjust Exposure to set mood

Exposure is another fundamental thing to consider here, especially if you’re shooting very detailed pictures, say with your new telephoto lens for iPhone. If your colors result too dark, you can brighten them up a little with the exposure tool, bringing a dull scene back to life. If you ended up with an overexposed shot then you can use the exposure tool to mute the scene and create a more moody feel.

Be careful though, as too much brightness will also cause a loss of quality, with the picture’s details being “eaten alive” by the overwhelming light.

A good habit, in this context, is to change the brightness before adjusting the temperature of a photo. In this way, you’ll obtain white colors that are at the same time crispy and clear. (Another thing you could do is to employ the “highlights save” slider when shooting in the light.

It will retouch the overexposed highlights in the image, making your portraits “sing”!)

Control Temperature to set tone

The temperature of a photo is also a crucial element that you should manage with VSCO. It essentially controls the balance between blues and yellows in your image. Too much blue, and you will get a cold-feeling picture. Too much yellow, and it will definitely look too warm.  

A way to approach this challenge would be to always keep the yellows down to a minimum (for a “clean” looking photo), and then re-adjust them in a second moment thanks to the yellow Shadows Tint tool. Of course, Shadows Tint also works for color channels other than yellow and can help you emphasize colder blues in the picture.

Crop Image and straighten Horizon

You need to know how to move and shift an image within its frame. This is especially important when shooting a vast scene with a wide angle lens.

Your friend just snapped a nearly perfect shot of you but an awkwardly angled horizon is bothering you? No problem, this can be fixed very easily. The Crop + Straighten tool will help you to perfectly center the picture and make the horizon look perfect. Choose your desired aspect ratio (we recommend 4:5 for Instagram) and crop the part of the picture that you want to emphasize. Keeping in mind the rule of thirds will help to make the picture look harmonic.

To move a particular subject around the picture, you can simply cut some of the edges off with the VSCO cropping tool. To shift something around its axis, instead, you can use the app’s straightening tool. The critical thing to consider, as a point of reference to level your subject, is the ideal horizon line of the picture. Make sure they align!     

LAST but Not Least

Bump Clarity to emphasize details

For professional photographers it is common procedure to sharpen images in post-processing apps to make the details pop.

This can be particularly helpful for Macro photography. Using the Clarity tool is a great way to achieve this. But be careful, adding too much clarity can make your picture look overprocessed quickly.

To Wrap This Up

We shared in this post our preferences and tips for this fabulous app.

Now it’s time to see what you think about it, what unique tricks will/have you discovered experimenting and having fun with it.

Let us know commenting below or on our social media. We can’t wait to know!

And by the way, it’s pronounced ViSCO.