In such a short period of time, no other creative tool has perhaps been as popular and impactful as VSCO. Falling outside the realm of social media — and definitely not hardware — VSCO’s launch a year and a half ago has been a boon to the world of prosumer and professional photographers with well-composed packs of presets that effectively mimic the color renderings of classic films.
While the renaissance of analog methods has been well-documented and is nothing exactly new, it is, however, something that continues to gain traction. Despite the ability for virtually everybody to take a photo, there’s often much to be desired across the board for some of the relatively mundane photos that proliferate your various social media feeds. VSCO has obvious limitations that can’t be rectified at the time in which the shutter was pressed, but it can make a boring photo take on a much different dynamic — hence the popularity of Instagram.One perhaps lesser-debated element of VSCO has been its strong real-world link between digital and analog. The ability to pair a digital effect with something you could very well replicate through physical processes creates a sort of romantic link.
From a professional prospective, the look of VSCO has now almost become the de facto look and feel desired by clients and has given wide-stream credibility to the world of analog filters.
The launch of VSCO Film Pack 4 recently added, what is in our eyes, the most compelling pack thus far. Modeled after slide film — a popular option with professional photographers for its high contrast aesthetic — it’s another jam-packed array of both modern and discontinued options that follow VSCO’s familiar route of providing both the film in its truest form, as well as variations of the preset with increased/decreased/contrast effect tweaks to modify the emulation.
- Agfa Scala 200
- Fuji Astia 100F
- Fuji Fortia SP
- Fuji Provia 100F
- Fuji Provia 400X
- Fuji Velvia 50
- Fuji Velvia 100
- Fuji Velvia 100F
- Kodak E100G
- Kodak E100VS
- Kodak E200
All-in-all, the $59.50 USD option (if you’ve purchased previous VSCO packs) is a good deal but if you’re an avid photographer, even the purchase of a full-priced pack at $89.25 offers good value for something that has the ability to enhance — and enhance quickly — your photographs. Below are a series of pros and cons as reviewed via Lightroom below:
Fuji Velvia 100 –
Fuji Fortia SP -
- All effects across the board (not just Film Pack 4) are non-destructive and saved in memory as opposed to creating a secondary TIFF file to edit in an external program.
- A nice collection of vibrant stocks to round off previous bundles unlike the last Instant Film Pack 3 that resulted in over- baked images.
- High contrast, vibrant colors and bright highlights.
- Works great for food, interior architecture and fashion.
- A great value at $59.50 USD if you’ve purchased previous sets.
- Most of the negative aspects pertain to their limited range of control emulating film in Lightroom’s native environment. This is a trade-off for maintaining a non-destructive RAW workflow.
- Not exactly a knock on VSCO, but it’s difficult to process through the small preview window of Lightroom’s navigator.
- After three previous volumes of VSCO filters, the presets window has become a long redundant stream of filters with subtle differences.
- No simple method of reducing the strength of the preset unlike the mobile app. Users need to have a fair knowledge of curves and Lightroom silders to adjust the looks.
How to Make It Better…
There are several changes I’d institute to make VSCO Film better in general. The first would be including the ability to cross-process presets with C-41. I’d also like to see the existing lineup of filters made available in VSCOCAM. I’m not so interested in the realism of a particular emulation of a film, but rather, the best-looking result. For all the EXIF junkies, it would be nice to see the data tagged with a chosen preset embedded in the EXIF for future reference and tagging. Another added benefit of having the EXIF data would be to match future projects with the same look and aesthetic as previous ones.
VSCO Film Pack 4 and its three predecessors are available now directly from VSCO for Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop.
Brandon Shigeta is a contributing photographer and interim Creative Director at HYPEBEAST. His background includes a Master in Architecture from Harvard and numerous client projects under his belt including POW WOW, Stussy, Flexfit and Everlane. When not Instagramming food or buying photo equipment, Brandon has an extremely soft spot for #veryrare and regionally-exclusive snacks and desserts.
Astia 100F -
Fuji Provia 100F -