We love VSCO here at Mortal Muses. If you’re not familiar with them, they make software that emulates the characteristics of various kinds of film. As someone who shoots a lot of film, I love being able to bring the same sensibility to my digital images, and I’m not alone. You may remember that Debra raved about the VSCO Cam iPhone camera app last year and Lindsey reviewed the VSCO 03 pack for Lightroom. Their new iPhone camera app, called VSCO Cam, came out in early June so I downloaded it right away. Note that is this is an entirely new app, not an upgrade to the old one. And it’s much more than your average photo app, combining an innovative camera, phenomenal processing options and, if that wasn’t enough, built-in access to a stream of tutorials and examples to inform and inspire you.
The new camera is beautiful in its simplicity. Its killer feature is that a zoom gesture with two fingers on the screen reveals the focus and exposure points, which can be positioned independently. It’s not the first app to do this, but it’s a great addition to the VSCO app and seems to be becoming a standard feature of camera apps. Tapping on the gear icon at the top of the screen gives you five extra options: Flash, Grid, Big Button Capture, Low Light Boost and White Balance Lock. There’s also a reverse-camera option for taking selfies.
Once you’ve taken a photo or imported one from your camera roll, it’s time to process it. The free version of the app has several free presets, but because there was a bundle offer when the app was introduced, I bought the whole set from the in-app store (accessed by tapping on the hamburger menu icon at the bottom left of the screen). The presets include those specifically made for portraits (the G series), more mellow presets (F series), the brighter and warm series (S series) and for those who want more of a film look, the K series (their analog series) and P Series (their instant classic range). You can buy the sets individually, and reorder them as you see fit in the preferences. Preview thumbnails show you how your image will look with each effect applied, and you can also change the strength of the effect using a slider. There are other editing tools including grain, sharpening, contrast, temperature and so forth. The sharpening effect is particularly classy. Once you’ve finished tweaking the image, you can save it back to the Camera Roll or share on various social networks.
Overall it’s a very slick app with a fantastic range of options. I’ve had a lovely time browsing the Discover section, which links to example images and tutorials to help you get the most from the various presets, and links to VSCO’s weekly Selects page to see even more gorgeous images that have been taken and processed with VSCO software. Integrating constantly changing content into the app in this way is very clever — and really inspiring.
There are a few flies in the ointment. There’s no Android version of the app, for a start. And even if you have an iPhone, some of the editing tools (grain, fill, vignette and sharpening) are available only on the iPhone 5, but not on older models. Moreover, I know I’m not the only one who misses the option of being able to shoot square in the camera. And why is it that VSCO’s Lightroom and ACR presets model specific types of film, but its iPhone app doesn’t? I would love to be able to emulate specific Fuji or Kodak films on my iPhone.
There have also been a few teething problems with the app: images sometimes don’t save properly, processing runs slowly for some users, and I had to delete and reinstall the app after a week when it refused to open any more. Because VSCO Cam has its own internal database of images, this meant I lost the pictures that I hadn’t exported to the Camera Roll. And reinstalling the presets was rather time-consuming. But VSCO are aware of these problems and are working hard to solve them, so keep checking in the App Store for updates (the 2.0.4 update, which is intended to fix the crashing problem, has just been submitted to Apple for approval).
Finally, VSCO Cam has the beginnings of its own social network, an invitation-only community called VSCO GRID. The company claims it is not trying to challenge Instagram, but is instead giving photographers a way to share their pictures with other VSCO users. It’s a bit like an online portfolio; check out some examples. It’s great to be able to see which preset has been used for each image.
In all, this completely redesigned app is really impressive, and it also provides a foundation for future expansion. If you’re not familiar with VSCO, then it is also a great introduction to their products. I can’t wait to see what VSCO will do next!
Remember The Phone Photography Project over at Big Picture Classes, where Holly and Jenny are both teaching this summer? You now have the chance to win a spot in the class!
All you have to do is to comment on any Mortal Muses post this week; each comment counts as a chance to win. We will draw SIX lucky winners and announce the results next Mobile Monday. If you’ve already signed up for the class, don’t worry; Big Picture Classes will refund your fee if you win the giveaway.
Here is what BPC has to say about the class:
In this month-long workshop, you’ll learn to take better photos with the camera you always have with you as you document your summer adventures—with help from 32 incredible instructors. On top of daily smartphone photography challenges, you’ll also enjoy:
dozens of tips and tricks from the pros for taking better photos with your mobile-phone camera
60+ photography app reviews for iPhone and Android, so you know which are worth your time and money
dozens of project ideas for getting photos off your device and into your world
interaction with 32 experienced iPhoneographers and Androidographers, and hundreds of fellow students in a private classroom and on Instagram
giveaways, contests, discounts, bonus downloads, and fun fun fun!
Read the rest of the description here.