Why Smartphone Photographers Always Use VSCO

By | March 25, 2022

This article offers a detailed overview of VSCO, which we consider to be one of the essential tools all smartphone photographers should use.


What is VSCO

VSCO (formerly VSCO Cam) is a popular app and platform for smartphone photographers. Simultaneously it’s an iOS/Android photo editor, camera app, and community “for creators, by creators,” where members post photos they’ve taken and edited with VSCO.

The Instagram hashtag #vsco has an impressive 189 million posts at the time of writing. The app adds hashtags automatically when you edit and post photos, but most people like to add them manually, as they are very popular.

VSCO regularly hosts creative challenges and contests, collects photo collections, and shares educational content all on its social platforms.

What does VSCO mean?

VSCO stands for Visual Supply Company, the company name behind the app. Visual Supply Company has been around since 2011 and is headquartered in Oakland, California, where it works exclusively on its namesake app.

VSCO Camera App

VSCO comes with a built-in camera app which may be more functional than your default camera. Nonetheless: this advanced camera feature is only available on iOS. According to this VSCO Support note, this is due to device limitations encountered while developing the Android version.

If you shoot on iPhone, the VSCO camera will provide you with the following advanced controls:

  • Shooting in RAW
  • Exposure Compensation
  • White Balance
  • ISO
  • Shutter speed
  • DSCO to make GIF

Of all VSCO’s features, the camera probably gets the least amount of attention, but it’s a nice bonus if you’re using the app for other reasons.

VSCO Photo Editor

As a photo editor, VSCO is quite capable. It may lack more advanced tools like brushes, retouching, and curves, but it’s ideal for working with color, light, and contrast.

VSCO comes with standard editing tools like Exposure, Contrast, and Saturation. There’s also a useful Split Tone that lets you adjust the color of shadows and highlights, and an HSL tool that lets you change the hue, saturation, and glow of the main colors.

But where VSCO really shines are the filters. A gigantic collection of filters can easily give you choice paralysis. Filters, or presets, are grouped into collections, such as B&W Fade for monochrome photos or Isle of Dogs, a limited-time series inspired by Wes Anderson films. You can add presets you like to Favorites and save entire recipes with editing combinations you like.

VSCO Social Platform

Once you take a photo with a VSCO camera and get the aesthetic you want, you can share it with the VSCO community. Social platforms have mobile photographers flocking to the app, as it allows them to express themselves creatively without a lot of social pressure.

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As a social media app, VSCO consists of several tabs.

  • Your profile: Where you can post photos with captions and hashtags, and save photos you like into Collections. On iOS, you can also create Journals — visual stories with images and text.
  • Your Feed: Where you see your own posts, suggested users and collections, photos by people you follow, and recommended reads.
  • Find: Where you can find VSCO challenges and curated collections, making it easy to find photos you like and submit yours.

VSCO vs. Instagram

As an image-centric platform, VSCO may seem similar to Instagram, making you wonder what the difference is. In short, VSCO is less of a mainstream social media app and more of a community for those who love photography. It’s less about sharing your life and more about sharing your creativity.

On a detailed level, here’s how VSCO differs from Instagram:

  • No public followers are counted or liked. You can follow someone or mark their photo as a Favorite, but the interaction will remain between the two of you.
  • You can repost photos you like and organize them into Collections.
  • No Stories in the Instagram sense. Instead, you can tell a story by creating a Journal with photos and text (iOS only).
  • No ads. Some brands do have accounts at VSCO, but most are marketing free spaces.

Is VSCO Safe To Use

VSCO has a nearly perverted following of teens and young adults (available to anyone over 13 years old). Since most parents don’t use or understand the app, online conversations about VSCO and security are ripe with trepidation.

In reality, the VSCO platform may actually be more secure than Instagram or Facebook. Being niche and focused on creativity makes it less attractive to predators, and a lack of likes and follower counts can mean less social anxiety. Users can only receive messages from people they follow, so it will be difficult for strangers to start a conversation with your child.

While these features give teens a sense of privacy, there’s really no way to create a private VSCO account. That’s why it’s best to deny the app access to your child’s location and make sure they pay attention to the dosages and donuts commonly used when sharing photos online.

How Much Does VSCO Cost

A VSCO membership costs $19.99/year and comes with a free 7-day trial. You can also use the app for free, but its functionality will be limited to a few basic filters, editing tools like Contrast and Saturation, and exploring community content.

Why VSCO Is So Popular

Some say VSCO is a great starting point for setting the mood for photos, while others say it allows you to reduce post-processing and achieve beautiful skin tones. The bottom line is that VSCO will help you become a better smartphone photographer.

It’s mainly down to three things:

  • A different “VSCO view”.
  • Many filters produce great natural colors.
  • An inspiring community and social platform.

So, if this sounds interesting, you might as well check out the 7-day free trial.

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