The free VSCO app is a powerful all-in one camera, editing and photo sharing app that’s easy to use and offers high quality results. The camera has a great range of advanced manual controls, and the photo editor offers a wide selection of elegant film-like filters and essential adjustment tools. In this tutorial you’ll discover everything you need to know about using VSCO to shoot, edit and share amazing iPhone photos.
How To Navigate The VSCO App
Formerly known as VSCO Cam, this app is divided into different sections for shooting, editing and sharing your photos.
While there are many features packed into this app, it actually has a very minimal user interface with many of the tools appearing as simple icons.
In the following video, you’ll learn how to navigate around VSCO so that you know exactly how to access the shooting, editing and sharing features within the app:
The important thing to remember with the VSCO app is that you can easily access the main menu at any time simply by swiping right across the screen. This menu gives you access to the different areas and features within the app:
Here’s a summary of the VSCO menu options:
The top option in the menu lets you access or create your own user profile so that you can share your photos on the VSCO Grid. The Explore option lets you view and discover the work of other photographers on VSCO.
The Library is where you’ll find any photos that you’ve taken with the VSCO camera or imported into the app for editing. The Shop allows you to purchase additional presets for editing your photos.
There are also two small icons at the bottom of the menu. The left icon is for accessing the camera, and the right icon opens the VSCO app settings.
So let’s now explore the three main areas of the VSCO app: camera, editing and sharing.
1. How To Take Photos With VSCO Camera
The VSCO camera can be used to take photos instead of using the iPhone’s native camera app. The great thing about the VSCO camera is that it’s suitable for beginners and advanced iPhone photographers alike.
You can use its basic functions to simply set your focus point and shoot, or you can use a range of manual features such as ISO, shutter speed, white balance and manual focus which give you more creative control when taking photos.
Let’s start by looking at the basic features of the VSCO camera in the following video:
As you’ve just seen, the VSCO camera is very easy to use, but what if you want more creative control over your photography?
In the next video you’ll learn how to use the advanced manual camera controls in the VSCO app:
Here’s a recap of the camera features covered in these videos:
Focus & Exposure
Focus and exposure can be used in two ways. Tapping the screen with one finger sets your focus and exposure at a single point (indicated by a red circle):
If you want to separate the focus and exposure points, tap the screen with two fingers and you’ll see two circles on the screen – one for focus and one for exposure:
You can drag these two circles to any position you want. Drag the focus point to the part of the scene that you want in sharp focus, and drag the exposure point to the area of the scene that you want correctly exposed.
If you double-tap the focus or exposure point, it will lock the value. If you then move the camera around to a different part of the scene, you’ll notice that the focus and/or exposure remains locked at your chosen values, no matter where you point the camera. To unlock focus and exposure, just move the red icons on the screen.
Bear in mind that when setting exposure you may not get perfect exposure throughout the entire scene. This is especially true for high contrast scenes such as landscapes where you might have a bright sky and a dark foreground.
With exposure you often have to make some kind of trade-off. Set the exposure for the area that you consider to be the most important, and then you can always tweak exposure for the rest of the scene in post-processing.
To exit the separate focus and exposure mode, double-tap the screen or drag one red circle onto the other.
At the top left of the VSCO camera screen, tap the white dotted circle to open the shooting menu. A bar of icons will appear across the top of the screen which allow you to change settings while you’re shooting:
Let’s now take a look at each setting in the shooting menu, starting from the left.
The lighting bolt icon gives you four different flash options. Just keep tapping this Flash icon to toggle through the settings.
If the Flash icon appears pale gray, the flash is switched off. The letter “A” next to the Flash icon indicates that Automatic Flash is selected and the flash will fire if there isn’t enough light in the scene:
The Flash icon without a letter next to it means that the flash is set to On and it will fire every time you take a photo.
The letter “T” next to the Flash icon means the flash is set to Torch which gives you a continuous beam of light.
The second icon in the shooting menu is for Gridlines which are helpful for composing your shot. There are four gridline options to choose from – just keep tapping the Gridlines icon until you find the option that best suits your needs.
If the Gridlines icon is a pale gray square with a cross through it, this means there will be no gridlines displayed on your screen.
The square grid icon as shown below is the 3×3 grid which displays the rule of thirds grid over your screen:
The next option is the Square Grid. This is an interesting feature that lets you compose your photo for a square image (inside the square guidelines) but the camera actually takes the photo in the original rectangular format:
Bear in mind that when you see the photo in your image library it will be rectangular and you’ll have to crop it if you want it to be square.
Finally, the Gridlines icon offers a straightening tool which helps you get your photos perfectly level. It’s especially useful when shooting landscapes to ensure the horizon is level:
Rotate your iPhone left or right and watch the leveling line rotate on the screen. When the middle line turns green you know your phone is perfectly level.
The two red lines tell you whether your phone is tilted forwards or backwards. To ensure your phone isn’t tilted, line up the red lines with the two white lines on either side of the screen. They’ll turn green when your phone is perfectly straight:
Sometimes you need to tilt your phone to take the shot, such as when you’re looking up at a tall building. However, bear in mind that tilting your phone up or down will always cause perspective problems where the subject appears narrower at one end.
Later in this tutorial you’ll learn how to straighten your images and fix perspective problems in the VSCO editor. So don’t worry too much if you can’t get it perfect at the time of shooting.
There are two ways of using the shutter button to take a photo. The first method is to press the lower gray bar with white dot to snap your picture. You don’t just have to tap the white dot – any gray part of the bar will do.
The second option is to make the entire screen your shutter button. To do this, tap the shutter button (solid circle) in the shooting menu at the top of the screen.
After enabling this setting you’ll see a red border around your viewfinder which indicates that the entire screen is now your shutter button:
You can now tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo. This feature is especially useful in concerts, crowded places and for shots that require an awkward or difficult position where you can’t easily reach the shutter at the bottom of the screen.
To switch off the full screen shutter, tap the shutter button icon in the shooting menu at the top of the screen.
White Balance Lock
In certain lighting situations you might notice that your photo has a slight color cast, ranging anywhere from orange to blue. This is due to different light sources having different color temperatures.
Color casts are particularly noticeable with artificial light sources, for example, incandescent light bulbs will give off a yellowish tone.
The camera’s automatic white balance (WB) setting will attempt to neutralize a color cast by cooling down or warming up the colors.
If you ever want to lock the current white balance setting so that it doesn’t change when you change the type of light you’re shooting in, you can tap the WB Lock icon in the shooting menu at the top of the screen:
To be honest, this isn’t something that you’re likely to use in normal shooting situations. You’re more likely to want to manually adjust the white balance setting which we’ll look at in the next section.
Advanced Settings (ADV)
The ADV icon lets you access the advanced manual shooting options, primarily for adjusting exposure and color. When you tap ADV in the shooting menu, you’ll see a small sun icon appear at the bottom left of the screen:
The sun icon lets you control overall exposure (brightness) of the image. Use the slider above the shutter button to reduce or increase the exposure. Tap Auto on the left of the slider to revert back to Auto Exposure:
Tapping the sun icon at the bottom left displays a menu of more advanced shooting options. From left to right these are: Exposure (sun icon), White Balance (WB), Manual Focus (+ icon), ISO and Shutter Speed. Each option displays a slider for you to adjust the values.
The White Balance slider lets you adjust the color temperature of your image. Slide right for warmer colors or left for cooler colors. Tapping Auto will revert back to Auto White Balance:
The Manual Focus option lets you control the focus point using a slider rather than tapping on the screen. This is great for close-up shots when you want to fine-tune the focus to ensure it’s set on the exact spot you want.
The ISO setting makes the camera more sensitive to light. Increasing the ISO slider essentially means the camera will use a faster shutter speed in low light, helping you to avoid camera shake. Bear in mind that increasing ISO often introduces noise (grain) into your photo.
The Shutter Speed setting lets you adjust the shutter speed. Making the shutter speed faster helps you avoid camera shake in low light due to the shorter exposure time, and will result in a darker photo. A slower shutter speed lets more light in, but can result in blurry photos if the camera is moved during the exposure.
The final option in the shooting menu at the top of the screen lets you choose the color of the camera interface. Tap the icon on the far right of the shooting menu to choose either a black or white camera background:
If you want to switch to the front camera to take a self-portrait, ensure the shooting menu is closed at the top of the screen (tap the dotted circle at the top left to hide the shooting menu icons). Now you can tap the Switch Camera icon at the top right of the screen:
View The Photos You Shot
After taking photos with the VSCO camera, the images will automatically appear in the Library section of the app where you can view, edit and share them.
To access the VSCO library, tap the image thumbnail at the bottom right of the camera screen. The library will appear and you’ll see the photos that you just took:
When you’re in the image library section of VSCO, you can return to the camera by tapping the bottom right icon (circle in a white square).
Summary Of The VSCO Camera
Whether you want to take a quick shot or spend more time adjusting manual camera controls, the VSCO camera is great for both beginners and advanced iPhone photographers.
If you find that you’re limited with the iPhone’s native camera app, VSCO is the perfect replacement camera app for giving you that extra bit of control over focus, color and exposure.
With that said, VSCO is unlikely to completely replace the native camera app in your photography because it does lack certain features such as burst mode, self-timer, HDR and Live Photos. And unlike the native camera app, you can’t shoot video, time-lapse, slo-mo or panoramas.
However, when you want more manual control over the camera’s settings, VSCO is an excellent choice. Its minimal user interface makes it really quick and easy to adjust focus, exposure, white balance, ISO and shutter speed.
2. How To Edit Your Photos In VSCO
VSCO is one of most-used apps by top photographers for editing photos on the iPhone. Not only is it very easy to use, but the resulting images look amazing!
There are two different editing sections within the VSCO app – one for preset filters and one for manual adjustment tools.
Presets are used to apply particular color and exposure adjustments to your photos with a single tap. They’re great for adding a certain mood or atmosphere to your images.
The VSCO presets have a wonderful film-like quality which tend to add a classy and timeless feel to your photos.
In other editing apps, preset filters can be quite harsh and can easily ruin a photo, but the VSCO filters are much more subtle and tend to enhance the natural beauty of your photos, rather than making drastic changes to the colors and tones.
In many cases you’ll probably want to use the manual adjustment tools to fine-tune your image in various ways, including exposure, color, sharpening, cropping and perspective.
Often, you might choose to use a combination of presets and manual adjustments to create the perfect edit.
In this video, you’ll discover how to edit your iPhone photos using both presets and manual adjustment tools:
As you’ve just seen in this video, you can choose to apply a quick preset to change the look and feel of your image, or you can go deeper with your editing by using the manual adjustment tools.
Here’s a recap of the editing features covered in this video:
The VSCO presets are one-tap filters, but they’re also adjustable so you can easily reduce their strength to apply just the right amount of preset to your image.
Simply tap on the preset you want to use, then tap the preset icon again. This displays a slider that you can use to reduce the intensity of the filter.
The VSCO app comes with a basic set of free filters, but you can purchase more preset collections via the Shop option in the main menu, and some are even available for free download.
VSCO Adjustment Tools
As well as the preset filters, VSCO has a comprehensive set of adjustment tools for fine-tuning your edits.
Because VSCO has a very simple and minimal interface, there are no captions for these editing tools – they’re simply depicted by an icon at the bottom of the screen:
If you’re not sure what an icon means, just tap on it and the name of that tool will appear, along with the editing options for that tool. Below is a description of each adjustment tool, along with some picture examples:
Adjusts the overall brightness of your image. Push the slider left to make your image darker or right to make it brighter.
Adjusts the amount of contrast between the bright and dark areas of the image. Increasing contrast makes the shadows darker and the highlights brighter. Reducing contrast creates a softer image with less difference between dark and light.
Allows you to straighten the horizontal lines in your photo using the slider. It’s great for straightening horizons in landscape photos. The square icon to the right of the slider lets you rotate the image 90 degrees at a time.
Skews your image to correct problems with horizontal perspective and alignment. Drag the slider left to stretch out the left side of the photo, or drag it right to stretch the right side of the image.
Skews your image to correct problems with vertical perspective and alignment. Drag the slider right to stretch out the top edge of the photo, or drag it left to stretch the bottom edge of the image.
Lets you crop away the edges of your photo using a variety of aspect ratios, e.g. 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, etc. Drag the corners to adjust the cropping area – the corners will move according to the chosen ratio.
Enhances the detail in your photo by increasing contrast. Drag the slider to the right to make your image “pop.”
Makes the detail in your photo appear sharper and more defined. Push the slider slowly and be careful not to over-sharpen. Too much sharpness can degrade the quality of the photo, making it appear slightly grainy.
Controls the vibrancy of the colors in your photo. Increase saturation to make the colors more vibrant, and decrease it to make the colors less vibrant.
Darkens the highlights to reveal more detail and color in the brighter areas of the image. This can be useful when you have an image with over-exposed areas that are too bright.
Brightens the shadows to bring out the details in the darker areas of your picture. Be careful not to over-do this effect because you’ll end up with a “flat” image that has little depth or contrast.
Lets you either warm up the temperature in your picture by giving it a yellow/orange tone, or cool down the colors by giving it a blue tone.
Adds a green or magenta (purple) color tint to your photo. Move the slider to the left to add more green tones and to the right to add more magenta. This can be useful for correcting strange color casts caused by certain artificial light sources, or just for creative effect to add different color tints to your image.
This tool is great for fine-tuning the skin tone color in portrait photos.
Subtly darkens the edges of your image. This can help bring more attention to the centre of the photo.
Adds grain and imperfections to your photo. While grain isn’t usually a desirable feature in a photo, sometimes it helps to create a certain atmosphere in an image and can make it look more like the picture was taken on a film camera.
Washes out shadows and gives your photo a faded or vintage look.
Adds different colored tints to the darker areas of your image. Tap the color again to adjust the intensity using the slider.
Adds different colored tints to the brighter areas of your image. Tap the color again to adjust the intensity.
Summary Of The VSCO Editing Tools
VSCO has an excellent selection of editing tools, from simple one-tap presets to manual adjustment controls.
The best way to get to know these tools is to set aside some time and just try using them on your photos. Notice what happens to your image when you push the dial from side to side.
The more you experiment with different photos and editing tools, the more you’ll understand how these tools work and how you can achieve the look you want.
Finally, remember that less is often more with photo editing. Try to keep your edits subtle so that you enhance the natural beauty of the photo, rather than overpowering it with strong effects.
3. Share Your Photos On VSCO Grid
The VSCO app has a dedicated photo sharing platform that allows you to showcase your best shots as well as discover new talent and photography.
In this video you’ll discover how to share your photos on the VSCO Grid and explore the photography of other VSCO users.
Here’s a quick recap of the photo sharing options covered in this video:
Remember that to upload your own photos to the VSCO Grid, you need to register with VSCO. Go to the main menu of the app, then tap Sign In.
Follow the on-screen instructions to register with VSCO and create your own profile. Once you’ve registered, your username will appear at the top of the menu, along with your profile photo if you’ve added one.
To add photos to your VSCO Grid, ensure you’re viewing your profile page, then tap the plus sign (+) at the top right and select Grid. You can now upload any photo to your VSCO grid.
To view photos shared by other VSCO users, access the main menu by swiping right, then tap Explore. Here you can discover new talents and photography by scrolling through the photo feed.
Without a doubt, VSCO is one of the best photo editing apps out there. If you’re looking for an app that creates subtle, beautiful and high quality edits, VSCO is the perfect solution.
It also has a great camera with lots of advanced manual features. So if you find yourself limited by the native camera app, use VSCO to take control of your creative shooting options.
In addition to the camera and editing tools, it has the added bonus of a built-in photo sharing platform. While it’s not as popular as Instagram, it’s a great way to connect with other VSCO users and get your iPhone photos noticed.
So once you’ve shot and edited a set of iPhone photos that you’re proud of, take the plunge and share them with others on your own VSCO Grid. It’s a wonderful community and a great place to explore and discover new talent.