In the art of photography most people assume that once a photo is shot its finished and ready to post online for the world to see. This is far from the truth as a majority of a photographer’s time is spent editing in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom subtly making edits ranging from color correction to smoothing out various imperfections. Photo editing is an undervalued practice that’s rarely appreciated despite the skill and dedication that comes with proficiency. While most of us don’t have the time to go to these lengths when taking photos on our smartphones, the phone app VSCO makes it incredibly easy to produce stunning, Instagram-ready pictures with next to no effort involved.

What is VSCO?

VSCO is a mobile photo-sharing app for iOS and Android devices that allows users to add custom filters to their photos and offers numerous photo-editing features that satisfy even the most serious of enthusiasts. At this point you’re probably thinking, “This sounds like something that I can already do on my phone or with the preset filters on Instagram, so why should I consider using this app for my photos?”

One thing that I’ve noticed when using filters with a default phone editor or Instagram is they tend to detract from the photo rather than enhance it. I personally dislike them and feel like they’re unnecessary, often contributing little to the photo that I’m quickly sprucing up.

Before and after images using VSCO for editing.

Here’s an example of how VSCO can be used to spruce up photos: the image on the left is the original photo, while the image on the right has a single filter added to it.

VSCO, on the other hand, makes a dramatic difference and I’ve never had a photo that wasn’t greatly improved with even the default filters that come with the app. Beyond default filters, users can either purchase custom filters from the VSCO store or download dozens of them for free.

Including the range of editing options, VSCO offers a wide arsenal of tools that anyone can use to create stunning photos when armed with a smartphone camera; for the inexperienced, it takes approximately 30 seconds to choose a filter and apply it, while the photography enthusiast can spend more time tinkering with the numerous editing features that VSCO offers.

Using VSCO to edit photos or simply add filters can really help enhance images on mobile devices.

Another example of VSCO in action: again, the image on the left is the original photo, while the image on the right has a single filter added to it.

VSCO community boasts 30 million users

Like other social media platforms VSCO offers its own community called GRID where users can create a profile and upload their own photos. While more than 200 million photos on Instagram have been tagged with #vsco and #vscocam, two of the photo app’s main hashtags, GRID differentiates itself from other platforms with the inability for users to like or comment on photos.

The anti-social platform has grown in users by 952 percent since 2015 and aims to move away from the social fatigue that’s experienced through other platforms; on Instagram specifically teens often create what are known as “finestagrams” to share heavily edited photos in an attempt to gain as many likes and followers as possible.

Whereas Instagram is a communication platform, VSCO views itself as a medium for self-expression where artists don’t have to showcase fake lives due to social pressure, valuing true interaction instead of numbers. This mentality is further exhibited in the app’s description, “Because beautiful imagery trumps social clout, the number of followers, comments, and likes are absent from the platform.”


VSCO is a must have for anyone with a smartphone

The app doesn’t compare to the fully-loaded Adobe Lightroom, nor should that be the expectation, but it serves as the most comprehensive and user-friendly mobile photo-editors to date. While most users may not participate in the 30 million-strong GRID community, VSCO serves as an easy and fantastic method of producing stunning photos that will engage users on social media. While custom photos are a great way to boost engagement, using the right hashtags should also be incorporated into your social media strategy.